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The DF-5 (Dong Feng-5 / CSS-4) is a silo-based intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). It was the first ICBM that China developed, and has the longest range of any missile currently in its arsenal. These missiles are capable of delivering large nuclear payloads throughout the United States and Western Europe.1

DF-5 at a Glance

Originated from
Alternate name(s)
Dong Feng-5, CSS-4
Possessed by
DF-5A/B/C (CSS-4 Mod 2/3)
Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM)
32.6 m
3.35 m
Launch Weight
183,000 kg
3,000-4,000 kg
Nuclear, 1-3 MT, Single warhead (DF-5A), Multiple warheads (DF-5B)
Two-stage liquid propellant
13,000 km
In Service

DF-5 Development

China began developing the Dong Feng 5in 1966, conducting its first limited test in 1971. After further development throughout the 1970s, the DF-5 completed its first full test flight in May 1980.2 The DF-5 entered operational service in 1981. The PLA deploys the missiles in hardened silos in central China.

The DF-5 served as the basis for a number of other military and space programs. These efforts included the Long March-2C space launch vehicle, DF-6 fractional orbital bombardment program (cancelled), the PRC penetration aid program, and the DF-5B.3

The DF-5 has an effective range of 12,000 km (7,456 miles) and delivers a payload of 3,900 kg. This payload is equipped with a 1 to 3 MT yield nuclear warhead. It may also employ chaff, decoys, or other penetration aids. Its inertial guidance system provides it with an accuracy of 800 m CEP. A large missile, tt measures 32.6 m in length with a diameter of 3.35 m, and has a launch weight of 183,000 kg. It uses a two-stage liquid propellant engine.4

As of 2016, it is estimated that China deploys approximately 10 DF-5A ICBMs.5


The DF-5B (CSS-4 Mod 3) is an intercontinental-range, silo-based, liquid-propellant ballistic missile. The DF-5B’s physical size is identical to that of the DF-5A (CSS-4 Mod 2) but can carry MIRVed warheads.6 The DF-5B also features a 300 m CEP greater accuracy from its previous iteration.7

The missile became operational in 2015. As of 2016, China has around 10 DF-5B launchers and 30 warheads.8


On January 21, 2017, media reports surfaced that China tested a new variant of the missile, the DF-5C, that is equipped with 10 MIRVs. This number of MIRVs is a significant increase from the three warheads previously deployed on the DF-5B.9


    1. “Dong Feng-5 (CSS-4),” Sino Defence, https://sinodefence.com/rocketry/df5/.
    2. Ibid.
    3. “DF-5,” in IHS Jane’s Weapons: Strategic 2015-2016, ed. James C. O’Halloran (United Kingdom: IHS, 2015), 7-8.
    4. Ibid.
    5. Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, “Chinese Nuclear Forces, 2016,” Bulletin of American Scientists, Vol. 72, Issue 4, 2016, http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00963402.2016.1194054.
    6. Scott LaFoy, “Building a Credible Arsenal: China’s Improved ICBMs,” China Brief, Vol. 15, Issue 21, November 2, 2015, http://www.jamestown.org/programs/chinabrief/single/?tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=44559&cHash=2eb7d26fff82cc6024550ed28fd502ba#.V6s40k0rLcs.
    7. “DF-5,” in IHS Jane’s Weapons: Strategic 2015-2016, 7-8.
    8. M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, “Chinese Nuclear Forces, 2016.”
    9. Bill Gertz, “China Tests Missile with 10 Warheads,’ January 31, 2017, The Washington Free Beacon, http://freebeacon.com/national-security/china-tests-missile-10-warheads/.
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Missile Defense Project, "DF-5," Missile Threat, Center for Strategic and International Studies, August 12, 2016, last modified April 23, 2024, https://missilethreat.csis.org/missile/df-5-ab/.