Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said on August 4 that the Chinese army had launched a total of 11 missiles, including DF-15B ballistic missiles, into the waters north, south, and east of the island.
This is the first time a mainland Chinese missile has passed over the island of Taiwan, the South China Morning Post reported. Footage of the missile launches was posted by CCTV. Andrei Chang, editor-in-chief of the military magazine Kanwa Asian Defense, said the DF-15B ballistic missile was used on the first day of the exercise.
Earlier, in two short statements, the Chinese military’s Eastern Theater Command said it had carried out precision strikes against specific areas in the waters east of the Taiwan Strait on August 4, as well as launching several missiles in the afternoon of the same day. “All missiles hit the target. The entire live-fire training mission has been successfully completed, and the measures to control the sea and airspace have been lifted,” the statement of the Eastern Theater Command stated.
According to CCTV video, the DF-15B ballistic missiles were launched from unidentified bases from the mainland, towards targets off the coast of Keelung port and Taiwan’s Hualien and Taitung counties. Better known as the M-9, an export version, the Dong-Feng 15 or DF-15 is a short-range ballistic missile developed by the People’s Republic of China. The DF-15 and the newer DF-16 are thought to be the only non-nuclear missiles in use by the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force. The U.S. Department of Defense estimated in 2008 that China had 315 to 355 DF-15 missiles and 90 to 110 launchers.
Development on the DF-15 began in 1985 with a finalized design proposal being approved by the PLA in 1987. The missile uses a solid fuel, single-stage rocket. It is vertically launched from an eight-wheeled transporter erector launcher. The missile’s trajectory is guided using small thrusters and an inertial guidance system on the warhead.
The warhead is only a tenth of the size of the missile body. After the body and warhead separate, the body trails behind to camouflage the warhead. The terminal velocity of the missile is over Mach 6. It can deliver a 500 to 750 kg payload up to 600 kilometres, with accuracy of 300 m circular error probability.
The DF-15A is a variant that employs control fins at the rear of the missile and on the reentry vehicle, GPS updates, and terminal radar guidance. Its payload is believed to be 600 kg with a range of 900 km and improved accuracy of 30 to 45 m circular error probability. The DF-15B is a further upgraded variant with similar features, as well as an active radar seeker, laser rangefinder, and maneuverable reentry vehicle. It is capable of ranges between 50 to 800 km with greater accuracy of 5–10 m circular error probability.
The DF-15C is a bunker buster variant equipped with a deep-penetration warhead, with a range of 700 km and accuracy of 15 to 20 m circular error probability. It was originally designed with the capability of destroying the Heng Shan Military Command Center in Taiwan’s capital of Taipei, which was built to withstand a 20 kiloton nuclear blast, a 2 kiloton conventional bomb blast, or an electromagnetic pulse; another target would be Chiashan Air Force Base. In the event of an invasion, the destruction of Taiwan’s major command center would make it difficult to coordinate defenses. The missile’s range also reaches locations as far as Kyushu in Japan, U.S. military bases in Okinawa and the Indian capital of New Delhi.
What makes the DF-15 so dangerous is that it can be launched from any location without prior preparation, and uses GPS positioning to update the target position. Military experts say that the variants of the DF-15 ballistic missile have given the Chinese military a very respectable ability to strike quickly at fixed targets.