The development of Chinese weapons and military equipment attracts the attention of specialists and the general public, and the creation of new strategic systems is of particular interest. One of the most interesting developments in the Chinese industry today is the DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missile. China is traditionally in no hurry to publish data on this project, and foreign intelligence services and the media do not stop trying to find out various details of the work.
Despite the secrecy regime traditional for Chinese strategic projects, foreign intelligence services still find ways to find out certain features of new developments. In addition, press activity and some enthusiasts contribute to the disclosure of information. Their joint work allows us to draw up a rough picture describing certain projects, however, errors are not excluded. Let's try to collect all the available data on the DF-41 missile that appeared in various sources.
As the name suggests, the promising DF-41 ballistic missile is another member of the Dongfeng (East Wind) family that has been providing China's strategic security for several decades. At the same time, the new rocket differs significantly from its predecessors in various design features, characteristics, etc. In particular, within the framework of the new project, as far as is known, an attempt was made to expand the methods of basing missiles.
Presumably a DF-41 rocket in a shipping container. Photo Militaryparitet.com
According to some reports, the DF-41 project dates back to the mid-eighties. Back in 1984, based on the analysis of technologies and strategies, it was decided to develop a new intercontinental ballistic missile. According to the terms of reference of that time, the new product was supposed to be able to attack targets throughout the United States. In addition, it was decided to abandon liquid fuel and equip the new rocket with a solid fuel engine. The result of the new project was to replace the aging DF-5 missiles with new weapons with improved characteristics.
One of the main problems of the new project was solid fuel with the required characteristics. According to reports, the development of the required composition was completed only in the early nineties, after which the engine was tested on the basis of the new fuel. The successful completion of this stage of work made it possible to begin the full development of a new ICBM and other elements of the missile system.
Apparently, it was at this stage that a proposal appeared to use a promising rocket with several types of launchers. By now, it is known about the development of a mine installation, as well as about work on two versions of alternative mobile systems. One of them should be based on a special wheeled chassis, and the second is proposed to be built on the basis of railway rolling stock. The emergence of two variants of the mobile missile system can significantly increase the strike potential of the DF-41.
Official Beijing does not disclose basic information about a promising ICBM. In addition, information about the characteristics of the complex remains classified. Nevertheless, due to the efforts of intelligence agencies, the media and enthusiasts, some information about the project appears in the public domain from the interested public. Some of the information published to date looks believable and may correspond to reality. However, one should not forget that the available data may be erroneous for one reason or another.
The most probable and plausible version of the appearance of the DF-41 missile is as follows. It can be a three-stage solid-propellant ballistic missile with a multiple warhead carrying warheads of individual guidance. The maximum firing range is estimated at 10-12 thousand km. At the same time, there are more daring assumptions according to which the missile can attack enemy targets at a distance of up to 15 thousand km. Thus, from the point of view of the main characteristics, the new Chinese rocket can be an analogue of the leading foreign developments of its class.
A high flight range must be achieved through the sequential operation of three-stage solid-propellant engines. Their task is to bring the missile to the required trajectory and accelerate to the required speed, after which warheads can be dropped with their individual guidance to different targets.
Possible appearance of a mobile launcher. Photo Nevskii-bastion.ru
According to various estimates, the assembled DF-41 rocket should have a length of about 20-22 m with a hull diameter of about 2-2.5 m. The launch weight is estimated at 80 tons. The throw weight can reach 2.5-3 tons.
The new ICBM should have an inertial guidance system that is standard for weapons of this class. In this case, it is possible to use the course correction based on the signals of the navigation satellites of the Beidou system. At present, this navigation system is capable of serving only the territory of China and part of the surrounding regions, but in the future it is planned to deploy a full-fledged grouping, suitable for use throughout the planet, which will increase the effectiveness of the DF-41 missile system. Shooting accuracy is unknown. According to various estimates, the CEP of warheads should not exceed 150-200 m. At the same time, it was previously stated that after the introduction of a full-fledged Beidou grouping, the accuracy of the missiles would have to increase.
There are several versions of the possible composition of the warhead of the new missile. According to various sources, the DF-41 can carry both a monoblock warhead with a 1 Mt charge and other types of warheads. In this case, it is possible to use from six to ten warheads of individual guidance with a capacity of up to 150 kt. Earlier it was reported that in the future, new warheads could be created for the DF-41 missile, which differ from the existing ones in reduced dimensions and increased characteristics.
Over the past few years, the foreign press has repeatedly raised the topic of launchers for the new Chinese ICBM. As follows from some reports, the DF-41 rocket should be launched not only from a silo launcher, but also from other systems of a similar purpose. According to some reports, back in the late nineties, the development of a mobile launcher on a special multi-axle wheeled chassis began. Later, as reported, such a combat vehicle was developed and tested.
Currently, according to the Western press, Chinese specialists are busy checking and testing the design of a promising launcher based on a railway carriage. Throwing launches of full-scale rocket models are already being carried out, with the help of which the operation of the launcher systems is checked and the influence of the ongoing processes on the design of a special car is determined. To date, several similar checks have been carried out, according to the results of which full-fledged test launches of the DF-41 can begin.
The design of a new Chinese ICBM took quite a long time, which is why tests began only in the current decade. The first flight tests of a full-fledged product took place in July 2012. There is also unconfirmed information about the second test launch, also carried out in 2012. According to other sources, the second time the DF-41 product was launched from the test site only at the end of 2013. Until the spring of 2016, there were reports of seven tests of the new Chinese missile. On average, the Chinese industry carries out two launches a year, according to the results of which, apparently, improvements are being made to the existing project in order to correct the existing shortcomings.
As follows from media reports, to date, China has completed work on the power plants of the three stages of the new missile, and also brought the guidance system to the required state. Since the end of 2014, multiple warhead missiles have been tested, in which training warheads attack different targets.
A railway carriage with a rocket launcher. Photo Freebeacon.com
Since roughly 2014, the Chinese industry has been testing prototypes of a railway launcher. Several throw tests have been completed. Several photographs have already appeared in open sources, which supposedly depict various elements of a promising railway missile system, including a special car with a launcher. The reliability of such images, however, can be questionable.
According to various estimates, the DF-41 missile system may be adopted by the Chinese army over the next few years. The silo-based missiles are likely to be deployed first. Then, ICBMs on mobile launchers will be able to enter duty. The available information suggests that the installation on a wheeled chassis is much closer to being put into service, while the railway system still needs numerous improvements.
According to available data, at present, the basis of China's strategic nuclear forces is made up of late-modification DF-5 intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of hitting targets at distances of up to 10-13 thousand km. Due to regular upgrades with the introduction of new equipment for various purposes, the characteristics of the later versions of the DF-5 were significantly increased in comparison with the basic products. Also in service are several other missiles of the Dongfeng family with different characteristics.
The emergence of the next ICBM family with high performance, corresponding to the available estimates, will be a real breakthrough in the modernization of the Chinese armed forces. This will allow the Chinese military to supplement, and in the future, replace the outdated DF-5 missiles, which, despite a number of upgrades, may not fully meet the requirements of the time.
Work on the new project should be completed within the next few years. No later than 2018-20, or a few years earlier, the DF-41 missile can be put into service and put into production with subsequent deployment at the bases of the armed forces. The adoption of a new ICBM into service can have a specific impact on the strategic situation in the region and in the world. What will be this impact and how other countries will react to the new Chinese weapons - time will tell.