Recent testimony by the commander of US
Strategic Forces Command and recent images of a Chinese transporter
erector launcher (TEL) point to a potential new variant of the
solid-fuel DF-31 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
In testimony given before the US
House of Representatives' Armed Services Committee on 26 February, Admiral Cecil D Haney said China
is "enhancing existing silo-based ICBMs, conducting flight tests of a
new mobile missile and developing a follow-on mobile system capable of
carrying multiple warheads".
statements or reports have mentioned the liquid-fuelled silo-based
DF-5A and the solid-fuelled, mobile and multiple independently
targetable reentry vehicle (MIRV)-equipped DF-41. Haney's mention of "a
follow-on mobile system capable of carrying multiple warheads" may be an
indirect reference to the DF-31B.
The Washington Free Beacon reported on 2 October 2014 that a DF-31B was tested on 25 September 2014 but provided no other details.
19 February Chinese military web pages showed a new 16-wheel
off-road-capable TEL with a four-door cab similar to previous ICBM TELs
produced by the Tai'an Company. Partial views of the same TEL appeared
on Chinese web pages in mid-2013.
Tai'an has produced tractor-trailer truck-based TELs for the 8,000 km-range DF-31 and 11,200 km-range DF-31A
ICBM and a larger 16 wheel off-road TEL for the 11,000-12,000 km-range DF-41.
All of these ICBMs are made by the China
Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC).
latest TEL differs from that of the DF-41 in that cab rests entirely
before the missile tube, whereas the DF-41 missile tube straddles the
top of its TEL's cab. Chinese sources suggest this TEL is for the
Whereas the DF-31 and DF-31A
have a single pair of aft-mounted mechanisms for elevating the missile
to launch position, the newer TEL appears to feature elevating
mechanisms both fore and aft the missile tube. This could indicate that
the DF-31B has heavier second and third stages.