The M-9 is a short-range, road-mobile, solid propellant ballistic missile built under the designation DF-15 in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). In the early to mid-1990s, it was believed that China built many DF-15s (export designated as M-9) for the purpose of exporting the missiles to countries like Iran, Syria, Libya, and Egypt. Following pressure from the United States and other countries, China cancelled its export orders, filled the orders under the strictest secrecy, or sold the M-9 technology without selling any actual missiles. 1 No exports of the DF-15/M-9 missile are known to exist. Several reports have suggested, however, that Iran had a program to develop its own version of the M-9 missile. It is not known whether this project was successfully completed, particularly because Iran has never showcased any M-9 missiles in a military parade (as it has done with its other missiles). 2
The tactical use of the M-9 is similar to the use of Iraqi ‘Scuds’ in the Gulf War. This involves using the missiles to strike at large military targets or to bombard a civilian area outside the range of traditional weapons, a tactic improved by the range and mobility of the missile’s Transporter-Erector-Launcher (TEL) vehicle. The M-9 has double the range of the older ‘Scud’, but lacks the payload capacity. The lack of payload is compensated for by more modern high explosives or nuclear weapons, which yield equivalent damage. The modern GPS/inertial guidance systems make these missiles highly accurate and viable assets for targeting armored military targets.
The M-9 is capable of rapid targeting and does not require wind correction before launch, as it employs inertial guidance and an onboard computer. There are unconfirmed reports that the RV has the ability to make altitude adjustments prior to reentry and to adjust its terminal trajectory.
The original Chinese M-9 is 9.1 m in length, with a diameter of 1.0 m, and a launch weight of 6,200 kg. It is equipped with a single warhead that can either be HE, 90 kT nuclear yield, chemical agents, EMP, or submunitions. It has a range of 600 km (373 miles) with an accuracy of 300 m CEP on older models and 30 to 45 m CEP for the GPS-upgraded models.
Though the existence of an operational Iranian M-9 has not been verified, the program specifications would probably have modified the missile from the original Chinese design. The program was believed to have reduced the missile payload to 320 kg in favor of an extended range of 800 km (497 miles). It could be launched from ‘Scud B’ TEL vehicles with only minor modifications and would likely be deployed on Iranian ‘Scud B’ TEL vehicles already in service.
Further information relating to the M-9 can be found in the description of the PRC DF-15/CSS-6.
- “Iran Profile: Missile,” Nuclear Threat Intiative: Working for a Safer World, August 2008, available at http://www.nti.org/e_research/profiles/iran/Missile/index.html, accessed on 27 August 2010. ↩
- Jane’s Strategic Weapons Systems, Issue 50, ed. Duncan Lennox, (Surrey: Jane’s Information Group, January 2009) 23-24, 73. ↩