DF-21A/C/D/DF-25 / CSS-5 / JL-1/1A / CSS-N-3 / KT-1/SC-19 ASAT
DF-21C carried by high mobility WS-2400 TEL.
The DF-21 is China's principal IRBM, available in a wide range of variants tailored for different roles. All DF-21 variants are two-stage, solid-propellant missiles transported on road-mobile TELs.
Four land-based DF-21 variants are operational, and the derivative JL-1 SLBM arms the Type 092 SSBN. DF-21 development began in the late 1960s. Initially, the focus was on developing the JL-1 SLBM variant. Actual DF-21 development did not proceed until 1978, following the successful testing of the JL-1's solid rocket motor. This represented the first successful solid-rocket ballistic missile design in China.
While the JL-1 is considered a weapon of dubious effectiveness due to its short range and the limitations of the Type 092 SSBN, the DF-21 family developed into a host of effective weapons.
The initial DF-21 was deployed in 1988, with the enhanced DF-21A following in 1996. Primary improvements in the DF-21A included increased accuracy and extended range. The development of the DF-21C began in 1984 as the DF-25, intended to offer the ability to carry a much larger warhead. The DF-21C also introduced a new WS-2400 TEL, conferring a measure of off-road mobility not present in the original towed launchers used by the DF-21 and DF-21A.
While the DF-21 and DF-21A were nuclear strike weapons, the DF-21C is employed as a conventional weapon system, employing terminal guidance for increased accuracy. The latest variant to enter service is the DF-21D, an ASBM (Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile) variant employing a terminally guided MaRV (Manoeuvring Re-entry Vehicle). The MaRV may be equipped with a RADAC system similar to that found on the MGM-31 Pershing II IRBM.
DF-21 variants serve as the basis for the KT-1 space launch vehicle and the SC-19 direct-ascent ASAT weapon system.
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