Catherine Dill2nd Artillery Missiles at the 2015 China V-Day Parade

As we move into autumn (not that seasonal change means much here in temperate and beautiful Northern California), I am trying to move into a regular posting schedule. Up first is a rather short post adding to the hot takes on last week’s 70th WWII Anniversary Parade in China.

Image: Zhang Siyang/GT

Let’s talk a bit about the Dong Feng missiles that were present and at attention.

The Second Artillery Force comprises six missile bases, numbered 51-56. An ongoing task of ours at CNS is to match missile deployments to specific bases (and launch brigades when possible). In fact, Jeffrey and I created a notional order of battle for the Second Artillery in Jeffrey’s latest book. (With thanks to Mark Stokes and Henry Boyd.)

During the parade, a major general from each base accompanied a missile that his base ostensibly deploys:

  • Major General Li Jun (李军) | DF-21D
  • Major General Chen Guoqiang (沈国强) | DF-15B and DF-16
  • Major General Li Yuchao (李玉超) | DF-10A
  • Major General Xue Jinfeng (薛今峰) | DF-26
  • Major General Zhang Mingguo (张明国) | DF-5B
  • Major General Wang Dingfang (王定放) | DF-31A


Identifications of these generals from Chinese news articles over the past few years appear to confirm some guesses from the notional battle about unit deployments and help inform others. I usually cross-reference information on personnel assignments from Chinese sources with the Directory of PRC Military Personalities. In this case, I do not have the 2015 version. Looking at the 2014 edition though, there appear to have been quite a few shifts in the leadership of the bases.

Base 51 | Major General Li Jun (李军) | DF-21D

The association with Major General Li appears to confirm that Base 51 deploys the DF-21D. It is possible that the some of the base’s older DF-3 and DF-21 launch brigades have been converted to the DF-21D.

Base 52 | Major General Chen Guoqiang (沈国强) | DF-15B and DF-16

The association with Major General Chen appears to confirm that Base 52 is primarily for conventional SRBMs. Given that the base’s nine launch brigades are scattered along the Southeastern coast of China, this is no surprise.

Base 53 | Major General Li Yuchao (李玉超) | DF-10A

The association with Major General Li confirms that at least one launch brigade under Base 53—which appears to deploy conventional SRBMs like Bases 51 and 52—deploys the DF-10A.

Base 54 | Major General Xue Jinfeng (薛今峰) | DF-26

Parade announcers specifically referred to the new DF-26 as capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear warheads, which as many analysts have noted may be problematic from a command and control perspective. Major General Xue appears to have been promoted last year and moved from the Second Artillery Testing Base 22, where he was the Chief of Staff according to the 2014 Directory.

Base 55 | Major General Zhang Mingguo (张明国) | DF-5B

The association with Major General Zhang appears to confirm that a launch brigade under Base 55 that deployed the DF-5A has been converted to the DF-5B ICBM.

Base 56 | Major General Wang Dingfang (王定放) | DF-31A

Major General Wang is the only base leader to also appear in the 2014 Directory of PRC Military Personalities in the same position. The association confirms that at least one of the four launch brigades under Base 56 deploys the DF-31A ICBM.

As always, I’m happy to hear any other thoughts in the comments from interested readers.


  1. Magpie (History)

    DF-21D, eh? The internet, eh?

    Maude, eh?

    Have we seen a real live one before now? Any ideas of numbers yet?

    Been telling my peeps for years now that China will get more muscular in pushing out into Wet China as they produce enough ASBM capability to become more certain of winning the war-that’ll-never-happen-because-China-already-won-it. That is, I reckon a display of the D might be another step up in the brinky stuff we’ve seen in the South China Sea.

    And also, I know that causing trouble at Mischief Reef is extremely worrying, but it still makes me chuckle every time.

  2. Nick (History)

    Do you mean Major General Xue Jinfeng (薛今峰) was in 2014 Directory assigned to 54th Base, right?
    GE tells that perhaps this he might be assigned to 53th Base this year 🙂

  3. Allen Thomson (History)

    Isn’t Base 51 a slightly odd place to base the DF-21D if it’s an ASBM? The nominal 1,500 km range covers the Sea of Japan, the Yellow Sea and part of the East China Sea but not other areas that one would think to be of interest. I’d have expected something considerably further south and nearer the coast, perhaps south of Shanghai.

    • catherine (History)

      Hi Allen, Thanks for your comment. I’m not sure that Base 51 is that odd, especially if the DF-21D is deployed at Launch Brigade 810 out of Dalian. You’re right that the location might not cover some areas of interest, but some of the Senkakus/Diaoyus and the U.S. fleet at Yokosuka are at the edge of the range. The association with Base 51 also doesn’t preclude the deployment of the DF-21D at another base as well.

  4. Allen Thomson (History)

    > the U.S. fleet at Yokosuka

    Which reminds me that, a) AFAIK there haven’t been any reports of the DF-31D MaRV being tested against a moving target and b) the new ship-like targets at 40.4665 N, 93.5213 E appear to represent vessels at pierside.

    So might it be that the DF-31D isn’t currently capable of attacking ships under way and is being fielded on an interim basis as a counter-port weapon?

    • Allen Thomson (History)

      Should be DF-21D, not 31, of course. Not enough coffee.

  5. Allen Thomson (History)

    RAND’s new evaluation of US vs China military standing has an interesting discussion of the DF-21D:

    P.S.: I wonder why the parade missiles were conspicuously labled “DF-21D.” It’s almost as if they were intended to convey a message…

    • Magpie (History)

      “P.S.: I wonder why the parade missiles were conspicuously labled “DF-21D.” It’s almost as if they were intended to convey a message…”

      ‘Zactly my point. Base building in the South China Sea has been kicking along, and I reckon China is ready for a harder push – maybe gearing up for actual exploitation of resources in a big way. Or they could possibly be thinking about a more serious push for the Senkakus. Or both.

      Waving their D’s around could well be the first part of a new phase.

    • J_kies (History)

      I am with Magpie .. waving their D’s around is funny.

      The Rand report on the other hand is rather disappointing as they constrained themselves to the least likely / hardest means to find ships.

      I believe they should have talked to the Australians as to the likely effectiveness of Chinese HF Surface Wave Radars on the coast (and possibly some of the ‘islands) as well as DF of ship/aircraft emissions from ‘Oceanographic’ buoys. SOSUS-like passive sonar networks will spot the supply ships in the CBG with sufficient accuracy / timeliness to support direct targeting. Its almost insulting that the Rand report points out that a weapon is poorly matched to surveillance if the target localization is poorer than the achieved autonomous acquisition target basket.

      If I was tasking Rand, I would have sent them back to review open source on all the other sensing means they failed to consider.

    • John Schilling (History)

      The RAND study also devotes a whole paragraph to the idea that the USN might, you know, maybe try to do something about the Chinese launching ballistic missiles against their aircraft carriers. But that would be too hard to throw numbers at, er, calculate with great precision, so let’s not bother with that.

      Calculating to three significant figures a game of dodgeball between a blind man and a sleepwalker. Whee.

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