DF-15 (Dong Feng-15 / M-9 / CSS-6)

The DF-15 (Dong Feng-15 / M-9 / CSS-6) is a short-range, road-mobile, solid-fueled ballistic missile developed and deployed by China. 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. Additionally, 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, the Korean Peninsula, 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)
Alternate Names: M-9, CSS-6
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 – 900 km
Status: Operational
In Service: 1990

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, has 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.

DF-15A
The DF-15A is an upgraded or renamed  DF-15 variant with a range of approximately 600 km.7 It is equipped with a high-explosive warhead and uses an inertial guidance system. The missile is reportedly nuclear-capable.8

DF-15B
This missile was first revealed publicly during an October 2009 military parade in Beijing. Unlike the DF-15A, the DF-15B (CSS-6 Mod 3) possesses a maneuverable warhead with a terminal guidance system for increased accuracy. The DF-15B’s warhead is widely believed to use a radar correlation system to provide terminal guidance and possesses an accuracy of 30m CEP. Its range is reported to be greater than 725 km.9

DF-15C
First unveiled in 2013, DF-15C (CSS-6 Mod 2) is a variant of the DF-15 equipped with an earth penetrating warhead.10 Distinguished by its rounded nose and extended length, the DF-15C is claimed to possess a maximum range of over 850 kilometers.11

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. 12 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. 13 Subsequent flight tests were conducted in 2003 and 2004. 14

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. 15

    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. 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.
    8. James O’Halloran, IHS Jane’s Weapons: Strategic 2015-2016, 2015, 12.
    9. 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.
    10. 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.
    11. 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.
    12. Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, “Chinese Nuclear Forces, 2016,” 206.
    13. “DF-15 (CSS-6 / M-9),” Global Security.
    14. James O’Halloran, IHS Jane’s Weapons: Strategic 2015-2016, 14.
    15. 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.