The Chinese military recently held a drill that may have featured a new Chinese hypersonic missile that has the ability to hit U.S. bases in the Indo-Pacific region. The vehicle hosts a medium grade ballistic missile named DF-17. Video footage of the drill was featured on Chinese state television recently with a missile, which many analysts believe was the DF-17. Another video showed the missile being enclosed in a camouflage cover.
“That [DF-17] cover was removed for the military parade [in 2019], but it should be intact for battle to keep it at the right temperature and to protect the missile from environmental damage… It’s also camouflage to protect the missile from being detected,” Retired PLA colonel and military commentator Yue Gang told South China Morning Post.
One officer revealed that the new weapons system cuts down the time needed to launch missiles. He said that the PLA’s ability to engage in future warfare will be enhanced due to this missile.
The DF-17 is mounted on a DF-ZF hypersonic glide vehicle and can achieve speeds of up to Mach 5. That speed is the threshold determining whether a flying object can be categorized as hypersonic. It can carry both conventional and non-conventional warheads.
The missiles can strike at a distance of up to 2,500 kilometers (1,550 miles), putting the Indo-Pacific region at risk. Other countries that have hypersonic missile programs include the U.S., Russia, and India.
The launch vehicle used in the drill is expected to accelerate the firing process of the DF-17. The camouflage cover on the missile helps it become invisible to enemy satellites and aerial detection tools. The cover also protects the projectiles against difficult battle conditions and weather.
Yang Chengjun, a Chinese missile expert, claimed that the DF-17 will make America’s THAAD anti-missile system useless. THAAD is currently deployed in South Korea. In addition, the DF-17 will also be effective against the U.S. Patriot and Japan’s SM-3 missiles.
China’s rising missile capabilities have been a source of concern for Washington. In a recent op-ed, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticized communist China’s nuclear missile program.
China’s ballistic missiles aren’t simply collecting dust
China launched more missiles in 2018 and 2019 than the rest of the world combined. In 2020, China test-fired more than 220 ballistic missiles, exceeding its totals in either of the previous two years. Commercial satellite imagery reveals year-round activity at Lop Nur, China’s nuclear weapons test site. Paired with its weapons modernization, Beijing’s nuclear posture is getting more aggressive, threatening even non-nuclear neighbors and undermining confidence in its so-called “No First Use policy,” Pompeo said in the op-ed.
The use of the DF-17 in drills coincides with President Xi Jinping’s call for war preparations. In his first order this year, Xi asked the PLA to maintain “full-time combat readiness” and to prepare to “act at any second.” He also wanted the military to increase the integration of the latest technology and combat systems, which include online combat drills and computer simulations.
Under its tech+web strategy, Beijing has increasingly used online simulators to give its military personnel as real a military drill as possible. Military commentator Song Zhongping said that Xi’s order indicated that Beijing is willing to implement any measure necessary to make the PLA stronger than any of its opponents.