Satellite images analysed by ThePrint show a high-security compound in Danzhou, Hainan province.
New Delhi: China’s People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF) has built a garrison in the southernmost Hainan province to store what is suspected to be DF-31AG, an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), satellite images analysed by ThePrint show.
On 30 July 2017, the PLARF surprised the whole world by displaying Dongfeng-31AG or DF-31AG, a new version of DF-31A, at Zhurihe’s makeshift parade ground prepared on the landing strip there.
The DF-31AG has a range of more than 12,000 km. The ICBM, mounted on an off-road capable eight-axle transporter erector launcher (TEL), is likely to be armed with multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicle (MIRV) warheads.
The location of this garrison being low in latitude indicates that the range of the DF-31AGs will possibly be increased by another 2,000-4,000 km. With this, China will be able to engage targets in most parts of the world, especially the continental US.
The new variant was first displayed in mid-July 2017 in the Military Museum Beijing and by the end of the month it was showcased at the 90th Anniversary Parade of the PLA where 17 TELs were observed, 16 in parade and one in spare.
ThePrint has identified, for the first time, a possible DF-31AG garrison with the help of Google Earth imagery.
The garrison located 10 km west of Danzhou, Hainan, has been built since last year. The construction will possibly be completed in another six months and deployment should be observed by the year-end.
This garrison is typically built around a sports track with a likely football field in it. It has seven quadruple-storeyed ‘C’ shaped barracks, six garages, including one for TELs, and three large administrative buildings connected to each other by an enclosed pathway. The barracks are likely to have basketball and/or tennis courts in the middle of the three buildings.
There is a massive high-bay garage in the northeast corner of the complex along with a large dugout, possibly for a semi-underground DES igloo.
The entire garrison with its support buildings has a high-walled security shield and it can possibly support a brigade-sized ballistic missile formation.
The model displayed by China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) was seen next to a DF-31A model and an approximate estimate could be made about the size of the DF-31AG.
The DF-31AG model was placed on a special wooden platform raising the height of the model, thus projecting it to be having a longer tube than the DF-31A.
However, the side view of the model’s aft portion makes it amply clear that DF-31AG is likely to be of the same length as that of DF-31A, if not shorter.
The brochures of the event indicated that the DF-31AG was an integrated improvement of the DF-31A, a part of nuclear missile weapon system.
The length of the DF-31A tube measured on Google Earth is 15.8 m. Considering that the DF-31AG’s TEL is the length of tube plus the cabin, the total length should work out to be not more than 18 m.
No assessment of length was made on the TELs that participated in the parade by any reliable open source since no satellite images of the site were available.