The DF-15 (M-9; Dong Feng-15; NATO: CSS-6) is a short-range, road-mobile, solid-fueled ballistic missile developed by the People’s Republic of China. It has a maximum range of 600 – 900 km and can deliver a 500 – 750 kg payload, with conventional warheads optimized for precision strike, bunker-busting, and anti-runway operations. It is capable of striking Taiwan, the Korean Peninsula, and northern India from mainland China.
DF-15 at a Glance
- Originated from
- Short-Range Ballistic Missile (SRBM)
- Possessed by
- Alternate Name(s)
- M-9, CSS-6, Dong Feng 15
- 9.1 m (10 m for DF-15A)
- 1 m
- Launch Weight
- 6,200 kg
- Single warhead, 500-750 kg
- Nuclear, HE, submunitions
- SIngle-stage solid propellant
- 600 – 900 km
- In Service
China’s Academy of Launch Technology (CALT) began developing the DF-15 on April 28, 1984. Designed primarily for export, the system was designated M-9 for foreign sale and DF-15 for domestic production.1 CALT began design work for the M-9 in October 1985 and first displayed the missile at the Asian Defense Exhibition in Beijing on November 4 – 11, 1986. China’s defense ministry approved the M-9 for production on March 2, 1987. On June 17, 1988, conducted its first flight test of the missile.2
China’s first DF-15 brigade entered service in August 1991.3 Following the DF-15, the PRC developed at least three variants of the missile: the DF-15A, DF-15B, and the DF-15C. 4
The DF-15 (CSS-6) is a single-stage, solid-propellant ballistic missile. It is 9.1 m long, 1 m in diameter, and weighs roughly 6,200 kg.5 The DF-15 can deliver a 500 kg to 750 kg payload up to a range of 600 km. For guidance, the system employs a strapdown inertial navigation system and its warhead features a “miniature propulsion system” for minor trajectory corrections.6 It can be armed with a variety of conventional payloads, including maneuvering, cluster and “bunker-busting” munitions.7 The DF-15 has an estimated accuracy of 200 – 300 m circular error probable (CEP).8
The DF-15 is a tactical missile designed to strike adversary weapons, grounded aircraft, command and control facilities, and other critical infrastructure. The missiles are launched from a Wanshan-produced transporter-erector-launcher (TEL), allowing the system to rapidly relocate after firing. The system’s estimated launch preparation time is 30 minutes.9
DF-15A (CSS-6 Mod 1)
The DF-15A is an improved DF-15 variant with a range of approximately 600 km.10 It is equipped with a high-explosive warhead and uses an inertial guidance system. The missile is reportedly nuclear-capable.11
DF-15B (CSS-6 Mod 3)
Beijing first revealed this missile publicly during an October 2009 military parade in Beijing. Unlike the DF-15A, the DF-15B possesses a biconic, finned warhead capable of terminal maneuvers. Several analysts suggest this warhead incorporates a radar-correlation terminal guidance system, with a potential accuracy of up to 30m CEP. Its reported range is greater than 725 km.12
DF-15C (CSS-6 Mod 2)
China first unveiled the DF-15C variant in 2013. This variant carries an earth-penetrating warhead.13 Distinguished by its rounded nose and extended length, Chinese media has cited DF-15C’s range as over 850 kilometers.14 Media reports additionally suggest that the warhead can penetrate 25 meters of reinforced concrete.15
While the DF-15 is believed to have entered service in 1990-1991, the DF-15A became operational in 1996, and the DF-15B in 2006. 16 In 1995, China test-launched six DF-15 missiles into the sea near Taiwan, with one missile experiencing mid-flight failure. China launched four more missiles in the direction of Taiwan in 1996.17 Additional flight tests took place in 2003 and 2004. 18
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.19
- John W. Lewis and Hua Di, “China’s Ballistic Missile Programs: Technologies, Strategies, Goals,” International Security 17, No. 2 (Fall 1992); Timothy V. McCarthy, A Chronology of PRC Missile Trade and Developments, (Monterey, CA: Monterey Institute of International Studies, February 12, 1992), https://apps.dtic.mil/sti/pdfs/ADA338725.pdf.
- Wood 2021, 27.
- 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.
- Lewis and D 1992, 35.
- Peter Wood and Alex Stone, China’s Ballistic Missile Industry (Montgomery, AL: China Aerospace Studies Institute, 2021).
- Wood 2021, 64; James O’Halloran, IHS Jane’s Weapons: Strategic 2015-2016, 2015, 12.
- Wood 2021, 64.
- National Air and Space Intelligence Center, Defense Intelligence Ballistic Missile Analysis Committee, 2017 Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat, NASIC 1031-0985-17, (Wright-Patterson AFB, OH: U.S. Air Force, June 2017), https://www.nasic.af.mil/Portals/19/images/Fact%20Sheet%20Images/2017%20Ballistic%20and%20Cruise%20Missile%20Threat_Final_small.pdf?ver=2017-07-21-083234-343.
- James O’Halloran, IHS Jane’s Weapons: Strategic 2015-2016, 2015, 12.
- NASIC 2017, p. 21; “中国火箭军拜年霸气十足 竖起6枚东风15做背景 [Chinese Rocket Army celebrates Chinese New Year’s domineering with 6 Dongfeng-15s as background],” CCTV News, January 30, 2017, http://news.cnr.cn/native/gd/20170130/t20170130_523543201.shtml; “DF-15/DF-15A M-9 CSS-6 Short Range Ballistic Missile,” Army Recognition.
- Ibid.;”China’s DF-15C missile,” China Internet Information Center, November 1, 2013, http://www.china.org.cn/photos/2013-11/01/content_30468146.htm.
- NASIC 2017, p.21; “中国东风-15C钻地弹曝光 地下掩体瞬间粉 [China Dongfeng-15C can Instantly Smash Underground Bunkers],” People’s Daily, September 23, 2014, http://js.people.com.cn/n/2014/0923/c360300-22407296-2.html.
- Wood 2021, 41.
- Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, “Chinese Nuclear Forces, 2016,” 206.
- “DF-15 (CSS-6 / M-9),” Global Security.
- James O’Halloran, IHS Jane’s Weapons: Strategic 2015-2016, 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.