Dong Feng-12 (CSS-X-15)

March 2017 by Collin Meisel


PRC/U.S. Designation Dong Feng-12 (DF-12); M-20/CSS-X-15[i]
Missile Variants 9K720 Iskander
Mobility and Role Road-mobile/Short-Range Ballistic Missile
Designer/Producer Russia[ii]/People’s Republic of China
Range 280km
Warhead Type and Weight Cluster, HE/400kg[iii]
MIRV and Yield N.A.
Guidance System/Accuracy GPS, laser guidance/10-30m CEP
Stages/Propellant Single/Solid
IOC/Retirement 2013[iv]/N.A.
Status/Number of Units Operational/Unknown


The Dong Feng-12 (DF-12) is a road-mobile, solid-fuel, short-range ballistic missile (SRBM). Previously branded by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as the M-20,[v] the design of the DF-12 is believed to be based upon the Russian Iskander-E tactical missile system.[vi] Launched from a transporter erector launcher (TEL) capable of carrying two missiles, the DF-12 has a range of up to 280km[vii] and utilizes global positioning system guidance (GPS) to maintain a target accuracy of less than 30m. [viii] In addition to GPS maneuverability, the DF-12 is reported to possess other “built-in counter-measures” to evade ballistic missile defense (BMD) interceptors.[ix]

Strategic Implications

As an SRBM, the DF-12 poses a limited threat to the PRC’s distant neighbors. However, with a range capable of reaching across the Taiwan Strait, even at its widest point,[x] the DF-12 acts as a part of the PRC’s 1,400-missile arsenal targeting Taiwan.”[xi] The DF-12 makes a notable addition to this arsenal given its rapid, precision-strike capability and BMD countermeasures. These countermeasures would likely prove to be a challenge for Taiwan’s missile defense capabilities,[xii] which do not presently include terminal high altitude area defense (THAAD).


[i] Bill Gertz, “China Reveals New Short-Range Missile,” Washington Free Beacon, August 2, 2013,

[ii][ii] J. Michael Cole, “China’s Second Artillery has a New Missile,” The Diplomat, August 7, 2013,;” Robert Beckhusen, “Beijing’s Latest Missile Can Blast Through Everything,” War is Boring (blog), August 9, 2013,

[iii] Cole, “China’s Second Artillery has a New Missile.”

[iv] Sidra Tariq, “Indian and Chinese Military Modernization – A Means to Power Projection,” Regional Studies Vol. 33, No. 3 (Summer 2015): pg. 18.

[v] Ibid.

[vi] Cole, “China’s Second Artillery has a New Missile.” /; Beckhusen, “Beijing’s Latest Missile.”

[vii] Cole, “China’s Second Artillery has a New Missile.”

[viii] Jeffrey Lin and P.W. Singer, “Come Look at China’s Coolest New Missiles,” Popular Science: Eastern Arsenal (Blog), November 8, 2016,

[ix] Richard D Fisher Jr, “Analysis: Chinese moves to adopt new guided rocket system show ongoing value of domestic competition to PLA,” IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, 26 March 2015.

[x] Cole, “China’s Second Artillery has a New Missile.”

[xi] House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats Hearing, Lanham: Federal Information & News Dispatch, Inc., 2013,

[xii] Beckhusen, “Beijing’s Latest Missile.”

Missile Threat and Proliferation