Quickly and quietly, the People’s Republic of China is transforming itself into a 21st Century military superpower to be reckoned with. Case in point: China’s latest-generation Dong Feng (“East Wind”) intercontinental ballistic missile, the DF-41, is months away from deployment.
This newest nuclear missile, touted as the world’s longest-range missile, is reputedly capable of striking anywhere within the continental United States. Unlike its predecessors, the DF-41 will not be confined to stationary missile silos, but will be launched from mobile platforms. This formidable new weapon will probably be deployed to the People’s Liberation’s Army’s (PLA’s) Strategic Rocket Forces bases this year, “given the number of real reported tests,” says Richard Fisher of the International Assessment and Strategy Center.
The DF-41 is the full “MIRV” nuclear package, carrying 10 independently targetable warheads. With a maximum range of around 9,000 miles, it will be capable of traveling well in excess of Mach 5, reaching the continental United States over the North Pole within a half-hour, or traversing the Pacific Ocean to North American targets in a few minutes more than that.