The Dongfeng-17 (DF-17) is a Chinese solid-fueled road-mobile medium-range ballistic missile.
It mounts the DF-ZF Hypersonic Glide Vehicle.
The DF-17 along with the DF-ZF, was officially unveiled at the National Day military parade on October 1st 2019, making this China’s first operational hypersonic weapon systems and one of the world’s first to be put in full initial operation.
China has invested significant resources in the DF-17 and its other hypersonic weapon programs. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has reportedly done so to counter adversary missile defenses.
Its aim was also to develop a fast, long-range, high-precision strike capability that “leaves enemies with little time to react.”
While slower than a conventional ballistic reentry vehicle, HGVs’ higher maneuverability and lower-altitude flight make them harder to track and predict their flight path, challenging legacy ballistic missile defense systems.
China’s 10th Research Institute is responsible for developing the DF-17 and other Chinese HGVs. Also known as the “Near Space Flight Vehicle Research Institute,” the organization operates under the China Aerospace Science Industry Corporation (CASIC) 1st Academy.
U.S. officials confirmed the DF-17’s existence in 2014, identifying it as the Wu-14.
News media later identified the missile as the DF-ZF – likely an early Chinese designation.
Between January 2014 and November 2017, China conducted at least nine flight tests of the DF-17. Tests took place at the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Centre in Shanxi Province.
The DF-17 is solid-fueled, measures around 11 m in length, and weighs around 15,000 kg.
The DF-17’s booster appears to be the same as that used for China’s DF-16 ballistic missile. Its accompanying DF-ZF HGV reportedly reaches speeds of Mach 5-10 (1.72-3.43 km/s) in its glide phase.
U.S. intelligence assessments suggest that the DF-17 possesses a range between 1,800 and 2,500 km.8 Although Chinese commentators have emphasized the DF-17’s conventional mission, the missile may alternatively equip nuclear warheads.9
The DF-17 has demonstrated a high degree of accuracy in testing, with one U.S. government official saying a test warhead “within meters” of its intended, stationary target.
U.S. defense officials have also said the DF-ZF HGV performed “extreme maneuvers” and “evasive actions” in previous test flights.
The tests it has carried out include:
- January 9, 2014 – First test launch.
- August 7, 2014 – Failed test, missile broke up soon after launch.
- December 2, 2014 – Successful test.
- June 7, 2015 – Apparent success, U.S. official noted the vehicle took “extreme maneuvers.”
- August 19, 2015 – Apparent success, U.S. official noted the vehicle took “evasive actions.”
- November 23, 2015 – Successful, with the HGV reaching a speed “beyond Mach 5.”
- April 22, 2016 – Successful test.
- November 1, 2017 – Flew approx. 1,400 km over 11 minutes, with the HGV flying at a depressed altitude of around 60 km.
- November 15, 2017 – Employed DF-17 to boost HGV to apogee.
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