19 April 2011

Mark Stokes on Possible Qingyuan ASBM Brigade, DF-16: “Expansion of China’s Ballistic Missile Infrastructure Opposite Taiwan”

Mark Stokes, Expansion of China’s Ballistic Missile Infrastructure Opposite Taiwan,” AsiaEye Blog, 18 April 2011.

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Second Artillery Force appears to be in the midst of a significant expansion of its ballistic missile infrastructure opposite Taiwan. Public statements made by senior authorities in the U.S. and Taiwan indicate that the PLA has formed its first unit equipped with an anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) system. Looking beyond a first generation ASBM, the Second Artillery also is investing in a new generation of conventional medium range ballistic missile (MRBM) systems. The Second Artillery’s expansion appears to include incorporation of two ballistic missile brigades previously under the PLA Army.

The Qingyuan ASBM Brigade?

The first noteworthy example of the Second Artillery’s expansion is the apparent deployment of a follow-on variant of the DF-21 MRBM that is capable of engaging moving targets at sea out to a range of 1650 kilometers. In a December 2010 interview with Japan’s Asahi Shimbun, Pacific Command (PACOM) Commander ADM Robert Willard asserted that the Dongfeng-21D (DF-21D) has reached an “initial operational capability” (IOC). Quoting an unnamed PLA official, China’s English language Global Times claimed that the country’s first generation ASBM system is “deployed with the army.” In March 2011 testimony before the Legislative Yuan, Taiwan National Security Bureau (NSB) Director Tsai Der-sheng also asserted that the DF-21D ASBM is “deployed.”

A Project 2049 Institute Asia Eye post published in August 2010 outlined two possible candidates for receiving the ASBM, both newly established units in Guangdong Province. A recent Defense News report indicates that the initial ASBM brigade is located in the area of Guangdong’s Qingyuan City. A number of sources suggest that the report has merit. The Qingyuan brigade, known by its cover designator of the 96219 Unit, is administratively subordinate to the 53 Base, which operates in Southern China. Headquartered in Kunming (Yunnan Province) and commanded by Major General Zhou Yaning, the 53 Base oversees two DF-21A MRBM brigades, a DH-10 land attack cruise missile (LACM) brigade, and a brigade-level training complex. Before his 53 Base command assignment, Major General Zhou served as 52 Base Chief of Staff. A new brigade equipped with a maritime variant of the DF-21 would bring the total number of MRBM brigades under 53 Base to three, and a total of 10 DF-21 brigades in the Second Artillery. The operational training facility under 53 Base is located in Guizhou Province, with a detachment on Hainan Island. Missile brigades are supported by training, transportation, nuclear warhead, repair, and communications regiments that report directly to the 53 Base command staff. …