(From the National Interest)
By Harry J. Kazianis
While the world ponders the latest North Korean long-range rocket launch, another recent missile firing in Asia, this time by China just days ago, seems to have flown under the radar. It could, however, be just as significant.
First reported by the Web site Alert 5 and then picked up by the good folks over at Arms Control Wonk, CCTV seems to have released the first launch footage of the much discussed DF-21D, or “carrier-killer” missile, on Wednesday, February 3.
In an interesting post where the comment section also features an in-depth discussion of the video footage that is just as important as the analysis itself, Catherine Dill, a research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, breaks down the launch in great detail:
“The video begins at a base the night before a launch exercise. . .
“An alarm sounds, the troops prepare the convoy, and then they deploy to a remote area for the launch. The convoy shows several shots of the TEL. It appears to be a DF-31A. . .
“After the launch, it is time for the celebrations–complete with jiaozi–in a tent. During the celebrations the soldiers watch prerecorded videos from their families. Although probably somewhat staged, this scene does illustrate some of the hardships of the young launch brigader in being deployed far from home in remote areas for long periods of time…”
So where is the missile being fired from? Dill gives us some ideas:
“I fear my time of relying on the Directory of PRC Military Personalities is coming to a close, but in final bout of luck Pang Xiuhai (庞秀海) is in the book associated with Base 51’s 816th Mobile Launch Brigade (96115部队) out of Tonghua, Jilin Province. This is rather far north, so all of the snow present in the video makes sense (chains are even visible on the TEL if one looks closely).
“Now, where near Tonghua might this base be located? Although the soldiers put their phones in a glass case, there is a bus stop for the 96115 unit in Google maps. It is not directly outside of the facility, but it’s close enough that I can find the facility.
“I have high confidence in the identification match based on the hedge pattern and the tile pattern in the cement.”
So what do we know about the missile? Dill continues:
“The TEL is for a DF-31. However, I have associated Base 51 brigades with DF-3s and DF-21s (and now DF-21Ds). I’ve been scrutinizing the video, and a closer inspection of the launch shows what appears to be a DF-21 or DF-21D missile exiting the canister. The shape of the nose-cone appears to more closely resemble a DF-21 warhead than that of a DF-31.
“This is not the highest quality video, so I do have some uncertainty about this determination. But if this is the case, why? At the moment, I don’t know. But I’m going to look into it.
“On a final note, I have not yet identified the site to which the launch brigade deploys. I commend anyone who wants to give it a try.” Read more, see video