DF-5 (Dong Feng-5 / CSS-4)

The DF-5 ( Dong Feng-5) is a silo-based intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). It was the first ICBM developed by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and has the longest range of any missile currently in its arsenal. These missiles are capable of hitting targets throughout the United States and Western Europe.1

Dong Feng 5 at a Glance

Originated From: People’s Republic of China (PRC)
Possessed By: People’s Republic of China (PRC)
Alternate Names: CSS-4
Variants: DF-5A/B/C (CSS-4 Mod 2/3)
Class: Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM)
Basing: Silo-based
Length: 32.6 m
Diameter: 3.35 m
Launch Weight: 183,000 kg
Payload: Single warhead at 3,900 kg (DF-5A), Multiple warheads (DF-5B)
Warhead: Nuclear 1-3 MT
Propulsion: Two-stage liquid
Range: 13,000+ km
Status: Operational
Status: 1981

Development of the Dong Feng 5 began in 1966 and by 1971 China completed and tested its first missile. After successful testing throughout the 1970s, the DF-5 completed its first full test flight in May 1980.2 The missiles entered service in 1981 and were deployed in hardened silos in central China. The DF-5 was used as a basis for a number of other programs, such as the Long March-2C space launch vehicle, the later cancelled DF-6 fractional orbital bombardment program, the PRC penetration aid program, and the improved DF-5B.3 dong feng 5
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 is reported to also be equipped with chaff and decoys or penetration aids to increase its resilience to missile defense systems. Its inertial guidance system provides it with an accuracy of 800 m CEP. It has a length of 32.6 m, a width of 3.35 m, and 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 that was deployed in 2015. The physical size of the DF-5B is identical to the DF-5A (CSS-4 Mod 2) but it has been upgraded to carry MIRVed warheads.6 The DF-5B has a 300 m CEP increase in accuracy from its previous iteration.7

As of 2016, China is reported to have around 10 DF-5B launchers and 30 warheads.8


On January 21, 2017, it was reported 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/.