DF-15 (CSS-6)

The DF-15 (CSS-6) is a short-range, road-mobile, solid-fueled ballistic missile. It has a maximum range of 600-900 km and can deliver a 500-750 kg payload, and can be equipped with a nuclear, chemical, conventional high explosive, or submunitions warhead, and it is possible, yet unconfirmed, that the missile can be also be equipped with fuel-air explosive or electromagnetic warheads.
Depending on where the missiles are launched within China, the DF-15A (900 km) has adequate range to strike Taiwan, South Korea, and parts of northern India.

DF-15 At a Glance

Originated From: People’s Republic of China (PRC)
Possessed By: People’s Republic of China (PRC)
Class: Short-Range Ballistic Missile (SRBM)
Basing: Road-mobile
Length: 9.1 m (10 m for DF-15A)
Diameter: 1.0 m
Launch Weight: 6,200 kg
Payload: Single warhead, 500-750 kg
Warhead: HE, nuclear, chemical, submunitions, (Possibly EMP, FAE)
Propulsion: solid propellant
Range: 600 km
Status: Operational
In Service: 1990

DF-15 Development

The DF-15 is part of the “M” family of missiles that began development in 1984 and were intended for export. The “M” family class of missiles were derived from both the Soviet S-75 (SA-2) short-range surface-to-air missile as well as the SS-1 ‘Scud’ missile. 1 It is believed that the DF-15, given the export name M-9, was developed for Syria and the DF-11 (CSS-7), or M-11, was created for Pakistan. However, despite extensive unconfirmed reports to the contrary, it is likely that the PRC, due to export restrictions on missiles capable of delivering payloads larger than 500 kg over 300 km, have never exported these missiles to another country. 2

The DF-15 was first displayed in 1988 at the Beijing International Defense Exhibition and flight-tested in June of that same year. It became operational in 1989 with the PLA Artillery Corps and completed development in 1990. 3 Following the DF-15, the PRC developed at least three variants of the missile: the DF-15A, DF-15B, and the DF-15C. 4

DF-15 Specifications

The DF-15 (CSS-6) is a short-range, road-mobile, solid propellant ballistic missile. The DF-15 can deliver a payload of 500 kg to 750 kg up to a maximum range of 600 km. Its payload carries a single separating warhead which can be equipped with a 50 to 350 kt nuclear device, chemical agents, conventional high-explosives (HE), or submunitions. Unconfirmed reports suggest that options for fuel-air explosive (FAE) warheads, or electromagnetic pulse (EMP) devices may also have been developed. 5 The DF-15 has an estimated accuracy of 300 m CEP. The missile is 9.1 m in length with a diameter of 1.0 m and a launch weight of 6,200 kg. 6

The DF-15 is a tactical missile designed to strike adversary weapons, grounded aircraft, command and control facilities, and other critical infrastructure. These missiles are fired from a Transporter Erector Launcher (TEL), which gives them increased mobility and survivability. The DF-15 has double the range of the older ‘SCUD’ system, upon which the design was based, but lacks the previous payload capacity.

At 10 m, the DF-15A is slightly longer than the DF-15, and it also has a rounded nose shape. This variant is also more accurate at 30 to 45 m CEP due to sectored control fins at the rear of the missile, GPS updates and a radar terminal correlation system, and flip-out control fins on the re-entry vehicle (RV). The payload is reportedly 600 kg and a 2009 report indicated that its maximum range is 900 km. 7

This missile was first revealed publicly during an October 2009 military parade in Beijing. Similar to the DF-15A, the DF-15B has components that reportedly increase the accuracy including four stabilizing fins, improved terminal guidance, and an active radar seeker and laser range finder. 8 The accuracy is estimated to be 5 to 10 m CEP. Its range is reported to be between 50 and 800 km depending on the payload.

An unconfirmed report in 2007 claimed that the PRC is developing a third variant of the missile designed to strike hardened underground facilities. 9 This bunker buster will host a deep-penetration warhead and is likely designed to attack hardened underground military targets in Taiwan. 10

DF-15 Service History

While the DF-15 is believed to have entered service in 1990, the DF-15A became operational in 1996, and the DF-15B in 2006. 11
In 1995, China test-launched six DF-15 missiles into the sea near Taiwan, with one missile experiencing mid-flight failure. Four more missiles were launched in the direction of Taiwan in 1996. These tests are believed to have been conducted as a show of force on China’s part in order to dissuade Taiwan from seeking independence. 12 Subsequent flight tests were conducted in 2003 and 2004. 13

It is believed that between 350-400 DF-15 missiles and 90-110 TEL launchers were operational in 2009 and that at least 30 missiles have been produced annually since. 14


  1. James O’Halloran, IHS Jane’s Weapons: Strategic 2015-2016, 2015, (United Kingdom: IHS), 12.
  2. Ibid.
  3. “DF-15/DF-15A M-9 CSS-6 Short Range Ballistic Missile,” Army Recognition, 5 February 2016, http://www.armyrecognition.com/china_chinese_army_missile_systems_vehicles/df-15_df-15a_css-6_short-range_ballistic_missile_technical_data_sheet_specifications_pictures_video_010502163.html.
  4. Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, “Chinese Nuclear Forces, 2016,” Bulletin of American Scientists, Vol. 72, Issue 4 (2016): 206, http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00963402.2016.1194054.
  5. James O’Halloran, IHS Jane’s Weapons: Strategic 2015-2016, 2015, 12.
  6. “DF-15 (CSS-6 / M-9),” Global Security, 2016, http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/world/china/df-15.htm.
  7. James O’Halloran, IHS Jane’s Weapons: Strategic 2015-2016, 2015, 12.
  8. “DF-15/DF-15A M-9 CSS-6 Short Range Ballistic Missile,” Army Recognition.
  9. James O’Halloran, IHS Jane’s Weapons: Strategic 2015-2016, 2015, 13.
  10. “DF-15 (CSS-6 / M-9),” Global Security.
  11. Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, “Chinese Nuclear Forces, 2016,” 206.
  12. “DF-15 (CSS-6 / M-9),” Global Security.
  13. James O’Halloran, IHS Jane’s Weapons: Strategic 2015-2016, 14.
  14. Office of the Secretary of Defense, Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China (Annual Report to Congress, 2010): 66, https://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/pubs/2010_CMPR_Final.pdf.
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