China has upgraded its Dongfeng (East Wind, 東風) ballistic missile series, codenamed DF-31AG, which Hong Kong-based military analyst Leung Kwok-leung (梁國樑) believes it has improved its range and precision.
A report published on Monday in the military news section of Sina.com, a Chinese online media portal, includes several photographs of the DF-31AG missile, introducing it as an improved version of the DF-31A.
Leung told CNA that based on China’s latest system of assigning numbers to missiles, the letter “A” represents a nuclear warhead and “B” a regular warhead, while “G” refers to an improved version.
As such, the DF-31 is the basic model, followed by the improved DF-31A, with an expanded range and a nuclear warhead, Leung said, observing that the designation DF-31AG indicates an upgraded DF-31A, which also carries a nuclear warhead.
The Sina report said that based on Chinese ballistic missile taxonomy, the range of a medium-range missile is 1,000km to 3,000km, while an intermediate-range missile has a range of 3,000km to 8,000km. An intercontinental ballistic missile can travel more than 8,000km.
The prototype of the DF-31 had a range of just 8,000km, meaning it could only reach certain parts of the US, making it a less than effective nuclear threat, the report said.
With the DF-31A, the range was increased to more than 11,000km and its accuracy improved, the report said, but there remained shortcomings, including a lack of mobility and an inability to carry multiple warheads.
The latest upgrade, the DF-31AG, incorporates three new features, including an off-road vehicle chassis that improves missile mobility and a multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicle, which enhances penetration capability.
The third feature is an unsupported random launching system that greatly improves mobility and launch concealment, thus improving missile system survivability, the report said.
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