China’s recently formed Rocket Force has conducted an exercise with advanced DF-16 medium-range ballistic missile, highly accurate weapon system with a range of over 1,000 km that is capable of targeting a number of countries including India, Japan and US bases.
The medium-range DF-16 featured in a video posted last week on the Defense Ministry's website showing the missiles aboard their 10-wheeled mobile launch vehicles being deployed in deep forest during exercises over the just-concluded Lunar New Year holiday.
The video was released by the People's Liberation Army (PLA), which is usually very secretive about its weapons systems.
China's Rocket Force is a special contingent to handle range of missiles in its military's arsenal.
Several launch vehicles carrying the ballistic missiles were seen in the footage released to show the training of Rocket Force missile brigade soldiers around the Spring Festival holiday.
The participating units handled a number of scenarios, including chemical/biological contamination, countering satellite reconnaissance and electronic jamming, state-run China Daily reported on Monday.
The crews practiced in multiple manoeuvres, such as rapid loading, redeployment and launch sequence, though the video showed no missile actually being launched.
Two types of DF-16 appeared in the exercise. The video represents the third time the DF-16 has been shown to the public.
The missile made its debut at a military parade in Beijing in September 2015.
While the Rocket Force boasts an extensive armory of missiles of various ranges, the DF-16 fills a particular role in extending China's reach over waters it seeks to control within what it calls the "first-island chain."
First displayed at a Beijing military parade in 2015, the missile is believed to have a range of 1,000 kilometers, putting it within striking distance of Okinawa, home to several U.S. military installations, as well as the Japanese home islands, Taiwan and the Philippines.
The two-stage DF-16 replaces the older, shorter range DF-11, with a final stage that can adjust its trajectory to strike slow moving targets and evade anti-missile defenses such as the U.S. Patriot system deployed by Taiwan.
It also carries up to three warheads weighing as much as a ton and carrying conventional high explosives or a nuclear weapon. Further increasingly its lethality, the missile is believed to be accurate to within as little as 5 meters of the target, similar to that of a cruise missile.
In July, a television news programme showed General Fan Changlong, a vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission, inspecting a DF-16 unit of the Southern Theatre Command.
Though the PLA has never disclosed its ballistic missiles' specifications, experts said the DF-16 poses a challenge to foreign military installations along the first island chain, which is what the Chinese military calls the series of islands that stretch from Japan in the north to Taiwan and the Philippines to the south, the Daily report said.
Since the election of Donald Trump as US President, China has been striking aggressive postures against Taiwan after he spoke to Taiwanese President Tsai-Ing-wen.
While criticising his moves, China has sent its first aircraft carrier to Taiwan straits, as well as the first island chain in the Pacific and stepped up naval drills in the disputed South China Sea.
Washington Free Beacon, a news website in the United States that specialises in military affairs, reported on January 31 that China conducted the first flight of the DF-5C intercontinental ballistic missile in January.
China has also deployed its long range missile close to the Russian border which the Russian media said is aimed at US.
Reports in the official media said China is stepping up preparedness for a possible military conflict with the US as Trump signalled to follow more hardline policy to counter China's claims on the disputed South China Sea, official media reports here said.
A commentary in the official website of People's Liberation Army's (PLA) said on January 20 the day Trump assumed presidency that the chances of war have become "more real" amid a more complex security situation in Asia Pacific.
Xu Guangyu, a retired major general and now a strategy researcher, said that DF-16 has a strike range of more than 1,000 kms, filling the gap that previously existed with the absence of a medium-range ballistic missile in the PLA's arsenal.
He said the missile also is able to reach Okinawa, a Japanese island about 400km from China's Diaoyu Islands.
Shi Hong, executive editor of Shipborne Weapons, said the DF-16 has a strike accuracy as good as that of a cruise missile.
It is also able to manoeuvre in its final stage to penetrate enemy defensive firepower, Shi said.
Other PLA Rocket Force brigades also mobilised their DF-11, DF-15 and DF-21C ballistic missiles during training around Spring Festival, according to PLA media outlets.