This article is published with kind permission of “Chinese Defence Today — sinodefence.com”.
DF-25 Medium-Range Ballistic Missile
The DF-25 (Dong Feng-25) is a two-stage, solid-propellant, mobile-launch medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) introduced by the Second Artillery Corps (SAC) of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) around 2004~05. The DF-25 can deliver a single and multiple conventional warheads weighting 2,000kg over a maximum distance of 1,700km. The missile is launched from a wheeled 10X10 vehicle capable of road and off-road travelling.
Although in its early years China’s ballistic missile programme mainly concentrated on the design and development of nuclear-armed strategic missiles, the Chinese military realised that short- to medium-range tactical ballistic missile (TBM) could also play an important role. In the mid-1970s, the PLA proposed a short-range TBM that can carry both conventional and nuclear warhead. Such a missile could be used to close mountain passes to stop or slow a possible invasion by the Soviet forces. The project was later cancelled.
In the 1980s, with the success of the short-range TBMs such as M‑9 (DF-15) and M‑11 (DF-11) in the export market, the Chinese military reassessed the cost-effectiveness of the TBM and concluded that it could offset the PLA’s deficiencies in its lack of long-range strike aircraft, aerial tanker, and aircraft carrier. The PLA recognised that conventionally-armed ballistic missiles, capable of providing an ability to deliver firepower quickly over extended distances, would be useful in supporting the PLA Navy’s operations in the region that is far from the coast, for example, the disputed Nansha (Spratly) Islands.
In the late 1980s, Beijing ordered the then Ministry of Aerospace Industry to speed up the development of the DF-25 missile programme as a stopgap measure to support China’s claim over the Nansha Islands as well as other few islands in the South China Sea. The development programme was slowed down again in the 1990s as a result of the improved Sino-Vietnam relation. Western intelligence concluded the DF-25 programme was abandoned in 1996. However, the project was quietly kept alive and the missile finally entered operational service in 2004/05.
An sketchy image of the DF-25 missiles was first published anonymously on the Chinese Internet in November 2006, followed by a high-resolution photo also published anonymously in July 2007. The online version of the PLA Daily later also published a photo showing PLA Second Artillery Corps soldiers loading a missile onto a transporter-erector-launcher (TEL) vehicle exactly identical to that shown in previous photos, indicating that the missile was already in operational service.
The DF-25 was the second solid-propellant MRBM deployed by the PLA, after the DF-21 that entered service in the late 1980s. The two missiles have approximately similar range of 1,700km, but the conventionally-armed DF-25 has a much higher payload of 2,000kg, compared to the 600kg payload of the nuclear-armed DF-21.
From the Internet source photo, it can be seen that the DF-25 MRBM is mounted on a WS2500 wheeled 10X10 TEL vehicle, with a maximum load capacity of 28 tonnes. Reportedly developed under the assistance of Belarus and resembling the Russian MAZ543 missile TEL vehicle, the WS2500 shows strong off-road travelling ability.
Some reports suggested that the DF-25 was derived by removing the third-stage from the three-stage DF-31 ICBM and substituting a modified second stage. The missile is placed inside a cylinder-shape container/launcher, with its nose extending outside of the launcher. The missile container/launcher is in horizontal position when in travelling and vertical position during launch. At the bottom of the container/launcher there are four large hydraulically operated stabilisers, which are lowered in preparation for the missile launch.
It is now known that type of warheads the DF-25 is carrying, but it can be assumed that the possible options for the warhead may include high-explosive (HE), anti-armour submunitions, fuel air explosive (FAE), and electromagnetic pulse (EMP). The PLA has also been reportedly developing the technology of using ballistic missiles carrying multiple conventional warheads to attack aircraft carriers. If this is true, the DF-25 offers an ideal delivery vehicle for this type of warheads.
Like the DF-11 and DF-15 SRBMs, the DF-25 is likely to be equipped with a combined inertial/GPS guidance system, possibly coupled with terminal guidance for higher accuracy.