China has reportedly upgraded its DF-17 hypersonic ballistic missile system, with the latest images showing a new transporter erector launcher (TEL), state-owned Global Times reported. The new TEL would enhance the survivability of the DF-17 against enemy surveillance systems.
A video released on the occasion of the fifth founding anniversary of PLA’s Rocket Force on Thursday had shown the upgraded DF-17 missile system.
In the footage, the TEL was shown moving in the desert terrain with an integrated cover for the missile, according to Global Times. A transporter erector launcher (TEL) is a missile vehicle with an integrated prime mover (tractor unit) that can carry, elevate to firing position and launch one or more missiles.
Simply put, the earlier TELs for DF-17 showed the missile ‘as-it-is’ on the top, exposed, while the newer one has it all covered and camouflaged. It enhances the system’s survivability against enemy surveillance systems and aerial strikes.
Although the video did not offer any clue whether the new vehicle was indeed related to the DF-17, a Shanghai-based news website eastday.com identified it as an upgraded version of the DF-17 hypersonic missile.
A report by the China Central Television (CCTV) said the new ‘weapon’ was first shown in the 2019 military-day parade. Interestingly, the DF-17 also made its debut at the same parade in 2019. Therefore, one could safely assume that the missile system shown in the video is the hypersonic DF-17.
The DF-17 Missile
In the past few years, several countries have been working on ‘new-generation’ hypersonic missiles to enhance their military capabilities.
With Russia’s Zircon, Kinzhal and Avangard, America’s ARRW, and India’s HSTDV and Shaurya, China has been making rapid strides in the field as well.
The DF-17 is a solid-fueled medium-range ballistic missile mounted on the DF-ZF hypersonic glide vehicle. The missile is capable of carrying both conventional or non-conventional warheads with ranges up to 2,000 kilometers and more, achieving speeds of Mach 5.
Interestingly, Mach 5 is the threshold to determine if an object is flying at hypersonic or supersonic speeds. In October, it was reported that the missile was deployed at China’s Fujian and Zhejiang which is right across Taiwan, amid Beijing’s tensions with the island nations.