The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has deployed the new DF-17 hypersonic missile in the country’s southeast coast near the island of Taiwan, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported Sunday.
“The DF-17 hypersonic missile will gradually replace the old DF-11s and DF-15s that were deployed in the southeast region for decades. The new missile has a longer range and is able to hit targets more accurately,” the report quoted an anonymous source as saying.
Beijing regards Taiwan as a breakaway province which it has vowed to take back, by force if necessary.
Relations between Beijing and Taipei have deteriorated since Tsai Ing-wen from the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was elected as president in 2016 and refused to accept the one-China principle. She was re-elected as President with an increased share of the vote in the recent 2020 presidential elections.
Taipei has also moved closer to the United States and signed a series of arms deals, including for Patriot missiles and an upgrade to its F-16 Viper jets, furthering the already strained relations.
China publicly unveiled its DF-17 Hypersonic Glide Vehicle (HGV)-equipped medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) at the military parade celebrating the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) on October 1 last year.
The DF-17 is China’s first MRBM equipped with a hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) and was developed by China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC). The HGV payload was reportedly designed specifically for the DF-17.
According to the assessments made by U.S. intelligence, the DF-17 is a medium-range system that has a range between 1,800-2,500 km (1,118-1,553 miles). The DF-17 is reportedly heavily based on the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF)’s DF-16B short-range ballistic missile (SRBM).
The HGV-equipped missile is reportedly capable of executing evasive manoeuvres at superfast speeds to evade existing missile defense systems. The missile is also believed to have the capability to deliver both nuclear and conventional payloads and could also be designed to deliver a Maneuverable Re-entry Vehicle (MaRV) instead of an HGV.
China conducted two tests of the DF-17 missile in 2017, with the first test taking place on November 1 and the second test on Nov. 15.
During the first test flight, which took place from the Jiuquan Space Launcher Center in Inner Mongolia, the missile’s payload flew to a range of approximately 1,400 kilometres with the HGV flying at a depressed altitude of around 60 kilometres following the completion of the DF-17’s ballistic and reentry phases.
The HGV powered flight reportely lasted 11 minutes before a successful impact at a site in the Xinjiang Province, which was just meters away from the actual target.