The DF-41 (CSS-X-10) is an intercontinental-range, road/rail mobile, solid propellant ballistic missile. As the missile has not left the development stage, much of the information available is estimation or conjecture. The DF-41 is the next land-based ballistic missile to be deployed in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and represents the peak of PRC missile technology. It has been reported that the missile consists of the first, two stages of the DF-31 (CSS-9) with a lengthened third stage, but it is likely that report referred to the DF-31A rather than the DF-41. The DF-41 appears similar to the Russian R-12 (SS-27) and it is possible R-12 technology was purchased or stolen. 1 The DF-41 is easily capable of striking the United States and will likely become the core of the PRC’s nuclear strike force.
The DF-41 is believed to be approximately 21.0 m in length, 2.25 m in diameter, and 80,000 kg in weight. Its payload probably carries either a single warhead or up to 10 MIRV with a total weight of 2,500 kg. Its warheads can be single 1 MT nuclear warhead or a selectable yield of 20, 90 or 150 kT on each MIRV. It has an estimated range of between 12,000 and 15,000 km. It uses inertial guidance, likely with stellar updates and a Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) system, which provides it with an accuracy of 100-500 m CEP. The DF-41 uses a three-stage solid propellant engine. 2
The DF-41 program is believed to have entered development in 1986. One report suggested that the project was terminated in 2002, though subsequent reports may suggest that the program has been reinitiated. The Department of Defense’s 2009 report on the PRC did not mention the existence or development of the DF-41, so it remains unclear if the program was restarted. 3 The project is expected to produce 10 to 20 initial missiles with the possibility of greater numbers in the future. About half of those produced would likely be kept mobile via rail or road-based launchers while the other half would likely be deployed in silos. Nominally, the DF-41 is set to replace the DF-5 (CSS-4), but both will probably be kept operational to maximize the nuclear force of the PRC. As there are a limited number of missiles in the PRC that can strike the United States, it is unlikely that the DF-5 will be replaced in the near future. Only after the DF-41 has achieved sufficient numbers will new missiles begin to replace the DF-5 systems currently in service. 4
- Lennox, Duncan. “DF-41 (CSS-X-10).” Jane’s Strategic Weapon Systems (Offensive Weapons). September 7, 2012. (accessed September 12, 2012). ↩
- Ibid. ↩
- “Annual Report to Congress: Military Power of the People’s Republic of China 2009,” Office of the Secretary of Defense, available at http://www.defense.gov/pubs/pdfs/China_Military_Power_Report_2009.pdf, accessed on 26 July 2010. ↩
- Lennox, “DF-41 (CSS-X-10).” ↩