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China’s Mystery Missile Launcher

by John Reed on March 5, 2012

What are those mysterious Chinese mobile ballistic missile launchers that were spotted online last week? At first I thought they mght be carrying the DF-31/31A ICBMs to their launch sites that the Federation of American Scientists just discovered. But the trucks shown in these pictures don’t match older images of the DF-31 mobile launchers that appear to be much larger than the truck shown above.

(Click here to see just how massive the DF-31/31A mobile launchers are)

This comes just after China revealed that it will increase military spending by more than 11-percent this year, a slight decrease from last year’s 12-percent hike. Still might be misleading since many claim that China’s military spends twice as much as it publicly claims to.

So, anyone know what type of missile these trucks are carrying?  Sound off in the comments.

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{ 88 comments… read them below or add one }

USSHelm March 5, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Maybe a DF-41 on a new TEL?


pandaa March 5, 2012 at 4:01 pm

Do people get thrown in jail for taking pictures like these in china?


Zeyn March 5, 2012 at 4:52 pm

now taking a picture and sending it to DT would get you thrown in the chair.


crouchingtiger March 5, 2012 at 4:54 pm

Not if they want us to see the pictures. Deception and disinformation, the whole art of war thing.


subescribetonone March 5, 2012 at 6:03 pm

In that case I wonder if this is supposed intimidating or ridiculous.


FormerDirtDart March 5, 2012 at 5:03 pm



blight_ March 5, 2012 at 5:09 pm

For the TEL: Maybe this MAZ? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MAZ-7917

Looks like a 12×12 or a 14×12, so it's definitely bigger than some of the typical Soviet missiles. It might be in the Topol (not Topol-M) class?


jamFRIDGE March 6, 2012 at 7:43 am

So Russia is selling most of their Soviet-era toys to China? I know the carrier wasn’t Russia directly, but I’m sure they were involved.


blight_ March 6, 2012 at 8:37 am

It's not a big deal. The MAZ's are used for more than ICBM transportation. It's like their HEMTT with the smaller 8×8's. A different MAZ vehicle forms the underpinnings of the Uragan and Smerchs…but it's hard to imagine what other uses a 12×12 vehicle might have. Tank transporter?


drick March 5, 2012 at 5:30 pm

Are you sure it's not inflatable? ha


Korean War Vet March 7, 2012 at 4:15 pm

DRICK: diversionary cardboard mock-ups, perhaps?


Ooh I Know March 5, 2012 at 6:04 pm

CN-P.O.S. 4027?


Kski March 5, 2012 at 7:18 pm

Just looking at the launcher classifies the weapon as a tactical or strategic missile, a ICBM would be bigger i think. In the end whatever that thing is it has to carry a wallop.


Bob March 5, 2012 at 8:52 pm

What are the doors? It looks like the "missile" has door flaps that are opened all along the side of it. Are these NASCAR roof flaps? Is this even a missile or perhaps a pontoon bridge?


FormerDirtDart March 6, 2012 at 12:13 am

its a missile container/launch tube.


blight_ March 6, 2012 at 9:45 am

Soviet TR-1 had an "environment canister" to protect the missile until it was fired. It also has the plus of concealing what the missile looks like, especially if the canister is just an ambiguous cylinder. The size of the cylinder gives you upper bounds on the size of the missile inside, but…


Hunter78 March 5, 2012 at 8:59 pm

Don't kid yourselves. There's almost no way China will not promote itself into a MAD relationship with US.


passingby March 5, 2012 at 11:52 pm

You are right. I suspect China already has that capability vs the US. The problem is really whether it has enough war heads / delivery systems to take care of US allies such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, France, Britain, etc. If you were the decision maker of Russia or China and a nuclear exchange is under way with the US, you'd want to eliminate ALL major US allies, especially Canada, Australia, Britain, France, and perhaps Germany. Russia has that capability for sure.

South Korea and Japan can be nuked with short/medium range ballistic missiles or bombers. But ICBMs with multiple warheads should be used for far away targets, along with nuclear subs.

This is a matter of national survival. Any major power would want to have the ability to wipe out all potential enemies in a nuclear war.


Nmate March 6, 2012 at 5:55 am

Even MIRV equipped ICBMs are a pretty poor weapon against SSBNs (unless of course, they're in port). I remember reading one or two studies from the 1980s that laid out the problems of this and they were pretty detailed. In short, it could be workable against a county with a small sub force, like Great Britain or France, but not against a country with a a sizeable SSBN force like the United States or (then) USSR.


itfunk March 6, 2012 at 6:41 am

The Chinese are not dumb enough to thin you can win a nuclear war but are smart enough to know that the US will surrender after losing one large city.


blight_ March 6, 2012 at 9:23 am

Bull. Americans don't have the stomach for bleeding the army white for a poorly understood war that seems only to enrich certain parts of the population (or in the case of Somalia, dying for a failed UN mission, or in Libya/Iraq/Afghanistan dying for ungrateful corrupt governments), but most people will fight to the death when faced with annihilation, and nuclear weapons certainly qualify.

If you drop nukes along the entire western seaboard, it will lead to a nuclear exchange. Even if only the coastal regions of China are nuked it will destroy the People's Republic, since it's historical power was based along the rivers and coastal cities. Without it, the PRC is severely crippled, and conversely, may not be worth occupying beyond for a foothold in resource rich areas in the interior.

DCNY March 6, 2012 at 3:12 pm

I was under the impression that China didn't yet have the technology to launch a full scale ICBM. Let alone, present a M.A.D. scenario…

passingby March 7, 2012 at 1:48 am

China has already deployed ballistic missiles that can track and attack US aircraft carriers. The only issue is adding sensors that track submarines on the move.


Lance March 6, 2012 at 12:21 am

Looks like a TEL MAZ that's been enlarged.


Lance March 6, 2012 at 12:23 am

Nothing new the Soviets used MAZ and larger versions to have everything from SCUDs to SS/N-17 ICBMs transported around to prevent from being took out in a so called first strike.

China is coming to the same conclusion.


Roland March 6, 2012 at 5:23 am

My research was telling me that, China military intended to use this ( China's DF-31A) against our (US) defenses ABM/ ICBM arsenal site in Alaska.


Roland March 6, 2012 at 5:34 am

Probably the blogger commentator on the webpage is a communist blogger but not necessarily representing the entire country (China) agenda.


Juuso March 6, 2012 at 10:11 am

Diameter of this new missile canister is smaller than the diameter of any known DF-31 versions.

But it looks very similar to DF-21C canister.


Sgt. Buffy March 6, 2012 at 7:53 am

Does the US have anything like this? Or anything resembling a mobile ICBM carrier?


blight_ March 6, 2012 at 8:19 am

We used to have a Midgetman prototype and a MX railcar prototype. That's about it I think….


Riceball March 6, 2012 at 10:53 am

Yes, they're called boomers or SSBNs.


Mike March 6, 2012 at 8:22 am

It's the Chinese version of the Oscar Meyer weiner mobile on it's way to the paint hangar.


crackedlenses March 6, 2012 at 7:31 pm

Good one…..


Juuso March 6, 2012 at 8:22 am

Missile canister what this mystery TEL carries has a smaller diameter than the DF-31 canister. It’s said that Chinese could MIRV their missiles if they wanted to do so, but they have chosen not to do that. If that’s true then something like DF-41 with 10 MIRV’s would be overkill for them, but something like MGM-134A Midgetman would make more sense…

It could be also a new ASAT missile or improved DF-21 with more range.


blight_ March 6, 2012 at 9:33 am

Yeah, it looks smaller than the TEL for Topol-M, so it doesn't look like it'll be a sixteen wheeler. It looks smaller than the Topols, so I'm not sure what it's supposed to be.

That said, images of DF-31 show a different transporter (looks like eighteen wheeler, so maybe not a TEL?) and a different storage vanister (cylindrical). The Soviets used a missile shaped canister for the TR-1, and the size of the DF-31 on other pictures suggests a TEL that might have to be bigger: maybe even the eight-axle instead of the six-axle, the MZKT-79921.


blight_ March 6, 2012 at 8:33 am
Juuso March 6, 2012 at 8:54 am

It’s the original DF-31 (CSS-10 Mod 1) what has 8000km range.


blight_ March 6, 2012 at 9:47 am

I wonder what it would cost to design a new launch vehicle that contained one or two VLS cells to launch standard missiles from trucks. Though I suppose it conflicts with ATACMS/MLRS territory, which uses the packs from the M270..


Mark March 6, 2012 at 10:26 am

pfft, neither would persue the attack of the other. It would be economic suicide for both sides.


Bob March 6, 2012 at 12:44 pm

When more than one nuclear capable missile flies it has moved beyond the bounds of the economic realm.


Jay March 7, 2012 at 10:25 am

Well, If we get nuked China can't sell their products and pay their workers, so they will have massive internal problems.

If China gets nuked we will have to start making a lot more cheap consumer goods to replace the Chinese production, so we will have to build factories and hire people. It would be like stimulus, but for real this time.

If China went to war with the US it would either go nuclear, or our Navy would blockage them and their economy would collapse.


Buzz March 8, 2012 at 9:59 am

Always posssible because china wants siberia really badly and they do have that pesky population problem.


Roland March 6, 2012 at 11:13 am

We probably need to place a number of missile shield in Alaska. We could nay already been warned and targeted by China and Russia w/o knowing it.


Roland March 6, 2012 at 11:15 am

We probably need to place a number of missile shield in Alaska. We may be targeted by China and Russia w/o knowing it.


Digger880 March 6, 2012 at 12:09 pm

Any nuclear weapons mass exchanges would kill everyone on earth anyways from the

radiation fall out. Where I live’ I would be gone in a flash, it,s a already targeted area.

Fort Drum


Anon March 6, 2012 at 5:14 pm

Possibly. The other side of the coin is, China isn't held by any treaty to NOT build Neutron bombs that would minimize radioactive fallout. Then again, our retaliation would be enough to poison the world. (If we retaliated… personally I think any Democrat in charge would allow us to be nuked without retaliation, in fear of upsetting the hippies).


blight_ March 7, 2012 at 11:19 am

FDR (an avowed liberal from a liberal new england family) approved Manhattan Project, knowing full well that any weapon built in world war always has a chance of being deployed.

Final deployment went to Truman, a senator from Missouri. He was a Democrat, but in our modern understanding of the party line he might easily have been Republican. One way or another, I think he was pretty centrist, but it's hard to say.

In any case, Truman approved the use of nuclear weapons. He is the only POTUS to employ nuclear weapons, and since you opened this to party politics and went as far as saying "any Democrat" (to include Democrats from before the Southern shift); Truman was a Dem.

That said, luckily we'll never know how presidents respond to nuclear attack. Or at least I hope that remains true.


anona March 7, 2012 at 5:51 pm

I love how Americans get so caught up with political party association. Riiight… A president in charge will just stand by and watch his country get nuked.


blight_ March 7, 2012 at 7:31 pm

Precisely. Then they'll claim that Democrats are anti-war or are somehow weaker presidents.

The label of Democrat used to belong to the deep South, and if it weren't for Johnson, and southerners would be proud Democrats. Confusing, isn't it? And perhaps, non-sensical to foreigners.


Jay March 7, 2012 at 10:26 am

That's not true, the nuclear winter myth is propaganda.

google "nuclear war survival skills".


blight_ March 7, 2012 at 11:24 am
passingby March 7, 2012 at 9:13 pm

I'd love to watch how you fare in an experiment. Please volunteer.


Kurt Montandon March 6, 2012 at 12:13 pm

To which the only possible response is: [citation needed]


Jay March 7, 2012 at 10:20 am

try google. http://news.investors.com/article/601292/20120215

"The commander in chief who once pined for a world without nuclear weapons has decided a world without an American deterrent is a good start, seeking to cut the U.S. arsenal by 80%.

In a world where rogue states with unstable leadership are either in possession of or pursuing nuclear weapons, and with Russia rearming and China emerging as a world military and nuclear superpower, President Obama has ordered the Pentagon to consider cutting U.S. strategic nuclear forces to as few as 300 deployed warheads — below the number believed to be in China's arsenal and far fewer than current Russian strategic weapon stocks."

You could also try reading BHO's college thesis proposing we cut our arsenal to promote world peace. really.


blight_ March 7, 2012 at 11:28 am

Reagan and Gorbachev envisioned a world without nukes. For Reagan, this involved SDI defeating the use of nuclear weapons.

Neither Reagan or Gorbachev could have anticipated a future where nuclear technology leaves the US and USSR and proliferates all over the place. It certainly no longer makes sense to have /thousands/ of nukes if the US and Russia temporarily agree to not target each other; but if the other guy doesn't care about getting obliterated ("we are martyrs, fire the nukes, allahu ackbar!") then five thousand nuclear weapons won't stop a fireball from appearing in Honolulu or any American city.


superraptor March 6, 2012 at 12:47 pm

China is rapidly increasing its nuclear arsenal. Think 10000 plus warheads in a 3000 mile long secret tunnel system. The US at the same time is decreasing its nuclear arsenal. It needs to push for a strategic treaty with China and verification of China's nuclear arsenal or the US needs to increase its own arsenal.


crackedlenses March 6, 2012 at 7:33 pm

Either the Chinese are nuts or they know something we don't. All the rationals for cutting our nuclear arsenal are a little suspect when one of our major competitors are steadily increasing theirs….


Juuso March 7, 2012 at 5:52 am

What makes you think that they have 10.000 nukes? Most credible sources say well Chinese have under 500 nuclear weapons.


superraptor March 7, 2012 at 8:55 am

if you read the Washington Post article from last year, there is concern that they are hiding thousands of nuclear warheads in their secret 3000 miles long tunnel system. If they would allow verification of their nuclear arsenal, we would not have to speculate. The only thing the US can do, is to be prepared. President Romney will rebuild our Nuclear Deterrence.


blight_ March 7, 2012 at 11:30 am

The FAS blog refuted some of the nuke allegations, under the assumption that many of the facilities identified as strategic facilities were actually standard munitions depots. The Second Artillery Corps (incidentally sharing acronym with old Strategic Air Command) does exist, does have ICBMs and is hiding them but isn't as big as they think it is.


superraptor March 7, 2012 at 12:13 pm

without verification China has 300 to 30000 warheads and nobody can claim to know the truth. It is up to China to clear this up. FAS is speculating wildly as anybody else myself included.

Oh My February 22, 2013 at 12:15 pm

Why should we increase the arsenal when we have enough to kill every human being on the face of the earth already. I doesn't matter how many you have–what matters is the destructibility of what we have..


Simon Reily March 6, 2012 at 1:10 pm

ICBM is my guess


tribulationtime March 6, 2012 at 2:08 pm

Weapons of Mass Destruction. We must bomb China and hit with flip-flops the pics of president, chinese one.


nary March 6, 2012 at 2:27 pm

At least Obama has openly declared his desire to completely eradicate the US nuclear arsenal. Does everyone feel safer now?


Juuso March 7, 2012 at 5:56 am

That report was political nonsense.

“As it turns out, Republican presidents have been the biggest nuclear reducers in the post-Cold War era. Republican presidents seem to have a thing for 50 percent nuclear reductions.”


blight_ March 7, 2012 at 11:30 am

Shh! Didn't you know it was Obama and Gorbachev that signed the INF treaty?


anon March 6, 2012 at 5:32 pm

AShBM anyone?


anthony March 6, 2012 at 6:09 pm

It has no use for china should we not let it get inspected by UN considering we got rid of ours in a treaty??


anthony March 6, 2012 at 6:13 pm

We cannot afford another war,even the drug war is costing to much,but then on the other hand it creates jobs in jail system,court houses,bail,transportation ,would it not have been better to have destroyed the popies in afgan?we wouldnt have the war now in mexico.And aouth america can take care of it selfas long as the big two dont sell weapoms to start wars..


Bob March 6, 2012 at 9:12 pm

Until we bring God back into our national lives and remove the elitist politicians that exist today we will all be speaking Chinese in a matter of time. The Chinese think in terms of centuries whereas our leaders cannot see past the next election. We also need to pass Amendment 28 to the Constitution as soon as possible. That will remove the elitism status of politicians but also reduce the bulging, growing deficit to guess who? Yes, China! Too bad most Americans are spoiled rotten idiots and cannot see what is coming. Are you one?


JRL March 6, 2012 at 11:01 pm

Thanks for your very insightful analysis, Mr Robertson, but I'm a little confused… isn't your first name supposed to be 'Pat'?


Oh My February 22, 2013 at 12:19 pm

Have you been shopping lately?


Buzz March 7, 2012 at 10:50 am

or it could all be a ruse to keep people guessing what it is. The soviets used to build fake weapons systems and parade them in public to drive the western intel agencies crazy trying to figure out what they were.


blight_ March 7, 2012 at 12:14 pm

Yupyup. It's casing is quite small, but it's carried on one of the longer MAZ TEL's.


erichs March 7, 2012 at 3:32 pm

Chinese Oscar Meyer Weiner Mobile?


passingby March 7, 2012 at 9:17 pm

agree. I'm equally surprised.

perhaps they haven't bothered to follow comments


blight_ March 5, 2012 at 10:10 pm

Still looks like a MAZ 12×12, which is used for Topol. A bigger one is used for Topol-M. They have an eight and ten wheeler for Scud et. al, the smaller TBMs (and formerly, IRBMs).


Nick T. March 5, 2012 at 10:37 pm

A coal transport turned ballistic missile launcher/transport? That's either desperate or the best use of of-the-shelf tech I've seen. Look's about the right size for the DF-series too.


Sgt. Buffy March 6, 2012 at 7:50 am

Very probable.


Anon March 6, 2012 at 6:10 pm

WRONG. If recent history and politics proves anything, it's that us Americans have turned into wusses. When is the last conflict we fought that wasn't hampered with politics and bleeding hearts? Ever wonder why we lost Vietnam? Why we get spanked by mere insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan?

If China nuked a city, we'd be at the negotiating table so fast it would make your head spin.

I'm not saying this because I agree with the concept… I personally like WWII methods of fighting… level EVERYTHING, and make sure the enemy is dead, not punished but dead.


crackedlenses March 6, 2012 at 7:30 pm

Then again, we lost 3000 people on 9/11 and we still can't agree on who the enemy is…..


blight_ March 6, 2012 at 1:29 pm

Could be a giant EMP. Airburst it over the US a la Starfish Prime.


passingby March 7, 2012 at 2:08 am

9-11 was a friggin' inside job by the usual suspects – the CIA, MI6, and MOSSAD with cooperation of a few key senior government officials … like Dick Cheney and his ilk.


passingby March 7, 2012 at 3:05 am
justsayin March 7, 2012 at 3:18 pm

Knowing the readers of this website, I'm surprised the above comment doesn't have a million downvotes.


passingby March 7, 2012 at 9:22 pm

the evidence in support of my contention is overwhelming for those with a cool, objective mind and real analytic skills, even when they are not knowledgeable about this kind of murderous geopolitical games.


blight_ March 26, 2012 at 9:51 pm

We saved face. But our interests were pretty much dead or re-education camps by the end of '75; or in exile in the US.


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