The DF-31 (Dong Feng [East Wind]-31 / CSS-10) is a Chinese intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). The three-stage, solid-fueled missile has an estimated range of 7,000 – 11,700 km. China first deployed the DF-31 in 2006, and has developed two successive variants: the DF-31A and DF-31AG.
DF-31 at a Glance
- Originated from
- Intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM)
- Possessed by
- Alternate Name(s)
- Dong Feng-31, CSS-10
- DF-31 (CSS-10 Mod 1), DF-31A (CSS-10 Mod 2), DF-31AG
- ~14 – 15 m
- 2 m
- 1,050 – 1,750 kg
- Single warhead, 500kg, 200 – 300kt nuclear
- Three-stage solid propellant
- Launch weight
- 42,000 kg
- 7,000 – 11,700 km
- In service
DF-31 development and specifications
China’s state-owned Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT) began research and development on a three-stage, solid-fueled ballistic missile August 1970. After successfully test-firing a 2m-diameter solid-propellant motor in late 1983, CALT began development of the DF-31 and its submarine-launched variant, the JL-2, in January 1985. 1 China first publicly displayed the DF-31 on military parade in 1999.2 While initially planned for deployment in the mid-late 1990s, delays in procuring the missile’s guidance system pushed back its service introduction to 2006.3
The original DF-31 (CSS-10 Mod 1) is a three-stage, solid-propellant missile with a range of 7,000 – 8,000+ km.4 The missile is approximately 15 m long, 2 m in diameter, and weighs 42,000 kg at launch. It is carried on an 8-axle, tractor-trailer-based launcher built by Hanyang and is launched from its canister with a cold-gas ejection system.5 The DF-31 is armed with a single nuclear warhead weighing roughly 1,050 – 1,750 kg. Reports have suggested that the missile possesses an accuracy of 150 – 300 m circular error probable (CEP).6 As of 2020, the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF) is known to maintain one DF-31 brigade, totaling six launchers, in Shaanxi Province.7
In 2007, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army introduced an an improved version of the DF-31 called the DF-31A (CSS-10 Mod 2). First tested in 1999, the DF-31A incorporates lightened guidance and other unspecified improvements to extend its range past 11,000 km.8 The missile is approximately 14 m long and 2 m in diameter. Unlike the DF-31, the missile conceals its warhead beneath a shroud and reportedly employs penetration aids—devices to penetrate missile defenses. These include at least eight decoy warheads.9 As of 2020, the PLARF reportedly maintains three DF-31A brigades, totaling 36 launchers, in Qinghai, Yunnan, and Henan Provinces.10
In 2017, China publicly displayed the DF-31AG, a variant of the DF-31A with an upgraded launcher and lower support requirements.11 Developed by the China Aerospace Science Corporation (CASC) and the Tai’an Special Vehicle Company, the DF-31AG’s wheeled TEL can traverse unpaved terrain.12 This off-road capability would allow the DF-31AG to disperse to a wider variety of concealed positions, reducing its vulnerability to counterforce attack.13 This configuration also requires fewer support vehicles to operate, allowing for increased readiness. As of 2020, the PLARF is known to maintain 3 DF-31AG brigades, totaling 36 launchers, in Lanzhou, Hunan, and Henan Provinces.
- “DF-31,” in IHS Jane’s Weapons: Strategic 2015-2016, ed. James C. O’Halloran (United Kingdom: IHS, 2015), 18-21; Peter Wood and Alex Stone, “China’s Ballistic Missile Industry,” (Maxwell AFB, AL: Air University, 2021); John W. Lewis and Hua Di, “China’s Ballistic Missile Programs: Technologies, Strategies, Goals,” International Security 17, No. 2 (Fall 1992).
- Wood and Stone, 2021, 26.
- Lewis and Hua 1992, 29; Hans Kristensen and Matt Korda, “Chinese nuclear forces, 2020,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 76, No. 6 (2020), https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/00963402.2020.1846432?needAccess=true.
- National Air and Space Intelligence Center, Defense Intelligence Ballistic Missile Analysis Committee, 2020 Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat,(Wright-Patterson AFB, OH: U.S. Air Force, 2020); Kristensen and Korda 2020, U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, China Military Power: Modernizing a Force to Fight and Win, DIA-02-1706-085, (Washington: Defense Intelligence Agency, 2019), https://www.dia.mil/Portals/27/Documents/News/Military%20Power%20Publications/China_Military_Power_FINAL_5MB_20190103.pdf; James C. O’Halloran, IHS Jane’s Weapons: Strategic 2015 – 2016, (London: IHS, 2015); David Ewing and Malcolm Fuller, IHS Jane’s Weapons: Naval 2016 – 2017, (London: IHS, 2016).
- Wood and Stone 2020
- “DF-31,” in IHS Jane’s Weapons: Strategic 2015-2016, 18-21.
- Kristensen and Korda 2020; Peter Wood, Decker Eveleth, Mark Stokes, “The PLA Rocket Force: Bases and Major Units,” (2020), https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5e356cfae72e4563b10cd310/t/5f5656adfab9b365a261e77b/1599493817783/Rocket+Force+Bases_Finalv2small.png,
- Lewis and Hua 2020; Kristensen and Korda 2020; NASIC 2020; DIA 2019.
- Xu Tianran, Tweet, November 22, 2019, https://twitter.com/stoa1984/status/1197912636031000581.
- Kristensen and Korda 2020; Wood, Eveleth, and Stokes 2020
- Jeremy Page, “China Parades New Missile in Warning to Rivals Abroad—and at Home,” The Wall Street Journal, July 30, 2017, https://www.wsj.com/articles/chinas-new-missile-a-warning-to-rivals-abroadand-at-home-1501409739.
- Wood and Stone 2021
- Ian Williams and Masao Dahlgren, “More Than Missiles: China Previews its New Way of War,” Missile Threat, Center for Strategic and International Studies, October 16, 2019, last modified November 26, 2019, https://missilethreat.csis.org/more-than-missiles-china-previews-its-new-way-of-war/.