DF-15

The Dong Feng-15 (DF-15, M-9, or CSS-6) is a road-mobile, conventionally-armed, single-stage short-range ballistic missile (SRBM) that has been in service with the PLA since 1991.

  • PLA designation: Dong Feng-15 (DF-15)
  • Export name: M-9
  • NATO code name: CSS-6
  • Type: Short-range ballistic missile
  • Manufacturer: Academy of Aerospace Solid Propulsion Technology (AASPT, or CASC 4th Academy)
  • Payload: Single conventional
  • Propulsion: Single-stage solid (HTTB)
  • Guidance: Inertial + Terminal radar/infrared imaging
  • Basing: Road-mobile on transporter-erector-launcher (TEL)
  • In service: 1989
  • Status: Operational

Programme

Development

The development of the DF-15 began in 1984 and the design proposal was approved by the Chinese military in 1987. The first test launch took place in June 1987 and the missile was certified for design finalisation in 1988. Between the late 1980s and early 1990s, a series of missile tests were conducted from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the Gobi Desert in northwest China. The missile was first revealed in the 1988 Beijing International Defence Exhibition and entered service with the PLA Second Artillery Corps in 1991.

China’s first conventionally-armed SRBM system, the DF-15 is capable of delivering a 500 kg payload over a distance of 600 km. The missile was offered to the international market under the designation M-9. However, contradictory to many claims, the missile has never been exported, possibly due to the restrictions of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) that prohibits the export of delivery systems and related technology for those systems capable of carrying more than 500 kg payload over a range of 300 km or above.

The DF-15 has become a major conventional theatre ballistic missile system in service with the PLA Second Artillery Corps. The 2007 U.S. DoD Report to the Congress on the PRC military power estimated that 300—350 DF-15 missiles and 70—80 launcher systems were deployed as of 2007. These numbers had risen to 350—400 missiles and 90—110 launcher systems by 2010. No export of the missile or its technology has been reported.

DF-15 during the 1999 military parade
DF-15 in service with the PLA
DF-15 in service with the PLA

In addition to the basic variant, the DF-15 has also been developed into the DF-15B and DF-15C variants. The DF-15B features a active radar-homing terminal guidance and four small stabilising fins, which significantly improved the missile’s accuracy to allow a near-precision strike capability. The DF-15C features a specially designed deep-penetration type warhead for attacking hardened underground bunkers.

DF-15A, B and C variants

1995/96 Missile Tests

During the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis in 1995-96, the PLA conducted fired a number of DF-15s into the international waters off the Taiwanese coasts as an intimidation in the lead-up to its presidential election. During the first test launch conducted on 21-28 July 1995, a total of six missiles were launched from a PLA Second Artillery Corps base in Jiangxi Province. These launches were conducted in the early morning between 01:00 to 04:00 local time to avoid hitting civilian aircraft and ships accidentally. All missiles hit their target zone in the public water 70 nautical miles north of Taiwan.

The second test launch took place in March 1996, with two target zones set in the international waters southwest and east of Taiwan respectively. In the early morning (00:00 to 01:00 local time) on 8 March, two missiles were launched almost simultaneously from two launch sites in Fujian Province. At around 01:00, another missile was launched from one of the launch vehicles which were involved in the earlier launches to demonstrate its rapid reloading capability. Of the three missile tests, two did not hit their target zone. On 12 March, the 4th missile was launched and hit the scheduled target zone.

According to the US Navy intelligence, the missile launch and support troops involved in the March 1996 missile test were mobilised from their base in Jiangxi Province to the forward launch locations over a distance of several hundred kilometres, 60 hours prior to the scheduled launch time. About 20—30 DF-15 missile launcher systems took part in the operation.

DF-15 test fire during the 1995/96 Taiwan Strait Crisis

Design

General Design Features

The DF-15 uses an inertial guidance package, coupled to a faster on-board computer system to give a high accuracy. The early model has a circular error probable (CEP) of 300—600 m, but subsequent improvements on the guidance system has increased the missile’s accuracy to CEP 150—500 m. This allows the DF-15 to be used for a conventional precise-strike to destroy large fixed targets such as command & control centres, air defence missile sites, and airports.

It is generally believed that the DF-15 has been incorporated with a GPS receiver, which can provide significant improvements to the missile’s accuracy. Moreover, by reducing the need for precise alignment of the inertial measurement unit (IMU) prior to launch, the use of GPS can significantly reduce the time and effort required for prelaunch preparation of the missile. This in turn can improve prelaunch survivability, particularly for mobile missiles.

The DF-15 carries a 500 kg single warhead and has a maximum range of 600 km. The missile is carried on an 8-wheeled TA5450 transporter-erector-launcher (TEL) vehicle manufactured by Taian Special Vehicle Factory to provide full road and cross-country mobility. In time of crisis the missile system could be quickly mobilised from bases to launch locations by railway. The TEL vehicle then carries the missile to a launch site with pre-calculated coordinate data. Alternatively, the missile can be launched from an unprepared location by using GPS to obtain coordinate data.

The DF-15 can carry a range of warhead types including high-explosive, high-explosive incendiary, and armour-piercing sub-munitions. Other warhead types under development include mine-laying and electromagnetic shockwave.

DF-15B (CSS-6 Mod-2)

The improved DF-15B features active radar-homing terminal guidance and manoeuvrable re-entry vehicle (MaRV), which increase the missile’s accuracy to CEP 35—50 m. The B model can be identified by four small stabilising fins in the mid-section for corrections during the final phase of the flight. The DF-15B entered service with the PLA around 2008, and was first unveiled to the public during the National Day military parade on 1 October 2009.

DF-15B during the 2009 military parade
DF-15B during the 2009 military parade
DF-15B during the 2015 military parade
DF-15B during the 2015 military parade

DF-15C (CSS-6 Mod-3)

The DF-15C is similar to the DF-15 in appearance, but features an extended cylindrical-shaped nosecone, which was speculated to house a deep-penetration type warhead designed specifically to attack hardened underground bunkers.

DF-15C
DF-15C
DF-15C
DF-15C

Specifications

  • Overall length (m): 9.1 (DF-15/A); 10 (DF-15B/C)
  • Core stage diameter (m): 1.0
  • Take-off mass (kg): N/A
  • Payload mass (kg): 320—750
  • Range (km): 600

References

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