Range Confusion for the DF-21C Missile deployment
The unclassified ranges of Chinese DF-21 versions published by the U.S. intelligence community are 1,770+ km (1,100+ miles) for the two nuclear versions (DF-21, CSS-5 Mod 1; and DF-21A, CSS-5 Mod 2). The DF-21A appears to have an extended range of 2,150 km. The dual-capable “conventional” DF-21C has a maximum range of 1,770 km, and the yet-to-be-deployed DF-21D anti-ship missile has a shorter range of 1,450+ km. Private publications frequently credit the DF-21D with a much longer range (CSBA: 2,150 km; sinodefence.com and Wikipedia: 3,000 km).
DOD maps are misleading because they depict missile ranges measured from the Chinese border, as if the launchers were deployed there rather than at their actual deployment areas far back from the border. The 2008 report, for example, includes a map essentially showing China’s border extended outward in different colors for each missile range. The result is a DF-21 range of about 3,000 km if measured from the actual deployment areas.
The 2010 report is even worse because it shows the ranges without the border contours as circles but measured from the most extreme border position. The result is a map that is even more misleading, suggesting a DF-21 range of as much as 3,500 km from actual deployment areas. The actual maximum range is 2,150 km for DF-21A (CSS-5 Mod 2), and 1,770 km for the DF-21C.
Although a DF-21 launcher could theoretically drive all the way up to the border to launch, the reality is that DF-21 bases and roaming areas are located far back from the border to protect the fragile launchers from air attack. DOD maps should reflect that reality.