By Mark Stokes, Executive Director of the Project 2049 Institute
The Second Artillery is looking beyond the DF-21D. In his presentation before the legislature, Taiwan’s NSB Director referenced the introduction of a new ballistic missile system into the active inventory – the DF-16. The DF-16 is said to have a range of over 1000 kilometers. Specific technical characteristics of this missile system are unavailable at the current time. However, China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) and China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) do indeed appear to be developing new designs for the Second Artillery. One is a two stage solid-fuelled “tactical” missile system, which is said to incorporate a high strength carbon fiber motor casing. A new two-staged solid rocket motor, developed by CASC's Fourth Academy, was successfully flight tested on September 25, 2010. CASIC's 066 Base in Hubei Province has been investing in optical and imaging infrared terminal guidance technology development. A Wikileaks cable refers to a medium range ballistic missile under development (NATO designation CSS-X-11), which served as a target for a January 11, 2010 missile defense test. The intercept was made at an altitude of 250 kilometers, indicating a range of at least 1000 kilometers. As a side note, a Xinhua news release, quoting an unnamed PLA official, highlighted the development of a new generation 4000-kilometer range missile system that could be completed by 2015.
Another recent development is the Second Artillery's establishment of a new launch brigade (96166 Unit) in the area of Shaoguan, just north of Qingyuan. The unit is subordinate to the 52 Base, the army-level command that operates in Southeastern China. The launch unit was initially collocated with an existing DF-21 brigade in Anhui Province's Chizhou City. A Second Artillery engineering regiment responsible for tunneling was operating in the Shaoguan area in early 2009. The 96166 Unit moved to new permanent facilities in Shaoguan in July 2010. The unit’s leaders appear to have extensive experience with the 600 kilometer-range DF-11A short range ballistic missile (SRBM) system. Two brigades under 52 Base are believed to be equipped with the DF-11A -- the 817 Brigade in Yong'an (Fujian Province) and the 818 Brigade in Meizhou (Guangdong Province). Former 96166 Unit Commander, Senior Colonel Tang Qixing, and Deputy Commander Tang Guozhong previously served with the 817 Brigade. Former Meizhou brigade Chief of Staff, Colonel Liu Chuanguo, was assigned as the Shaoguan brigade commander in July 2010. While possibly being equipped with follow-on variant of the DF-11, the Shaoguan brigade could be a candidate for a new MRBM system, such as the DF-16. Two subordinate launch battalions have been identified to date.
As a final note, there are indications that two tactical missile brigades under the PLA Army have transferred to the Second Artillery. The Nanjing Military Region’s First Missile Brigade, based in Fujian Province's Xianyou County, may now be assigned to the Second Artillery's 52 Base (cover designation of the 96180 Unit). The Guangzhou Military Region’s Second Missile Brigade, based in Puning City’s Hongyang Village, may now have a designation of the 96212 Unit, and subordinated to 53 Base. A February 11, 2011 Second Artillery publication reported that the Puning brigade conducted the Second Artillery’s first live fire training exercise in 2011. The units’ older 300 kilometer-range DF-11 SRBM systems may be replaced with more modern extended range variants. The Second Artillery also would incorporate the brigades’ inventory of unmanned aerial vehicles, which would be particularly useful in a Taiwan scenario.