China’s defense ministry confirmed on Thursday that high-tech DF-26 intermediate-range ballistic missiles have been deployed with the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force.
The DF-26 is tailor-made for precision offensives as well as swift nuclear counter-attacks – with its nuclear-tipped variant – against land- and sea-based targets.
The new missiles, with a hit range of 3,000-4,000km, are also known as the “Guam Express” among Chinese military buffs. They are the PLA’s first conventionally-armed missiles capable of reaching the US outpost of Guam if fired from China’s southeastern coastline.
But reports by the PLA Daily and Global Times on Friday seem to emphasis that the DF-26’s primary target would be Taiwan secessionists.
Chinese defense ministry spokesperson Wu Qian confirmed during a press conference on Thursday that the DF-26 had joined the combat sequence of the PLA rocket force after tests, adding that the deployment aimed to beef up deterrence against anyone seeking to split Taiwan from China.
Chinese military observers have also been hailing the DF-26’s anti-ship capabilities against US aircraft carriers and amphibious assault vessels.
The DF-26 is deployed on a transporter-erector-launcher and the US Air Force National Air and Space Intelligence Center estimates that as of June 2017, more than 16 launchers were operationally deployed along a number of coastal provinces from Zhejiang and Fujian all the way to Guangdong.
There have also been rumors that the DF-26 may also have been installed on the Beijing-controlled Scarborough Shoal, also known as Huangyan Island, in the eastern portion of the South China Sea.
Information on the DF-26 since its media debut at a 2015 military parade show that the versatile missiles can look for and lock onto moving targets onshore and offshore, such as an aircraft carrier, while cruising at a top speed of up to 18 times the speed of sound after re-entry into the atmosphere.
This is a feat, apart than the DF-26’s range, that is being trumpeted by Chinese state media, as hitting a moving target in the vast expanses of the open oceans is by no means easy.
But there are still doubts among Western analysts about the capabilities of the seemingly intimidating Chinese missiles.
No other country has successfully deployed such a weapon. Launching such missiles from hundreds, if not thousands of miles away, and hitting a target moving at 20 knots plus that is doing all it can to avoid destruction, is not mean feat, noted Harry Kazianis, executive editor of The National Interest.
Its has been reported that a PLA Rocket Force brigade is equipped with 18 such missiles.