History of Dong Feng (East Wind)

Chinese Ballistic Missiles

Excerpts (and pdf file) from Mike Gruntman's

Blazing the Trail. The Early History fo Spacecraft and Rocketry, Chapter 17

AIAA, Reston, Va., 2004

(Winner of a 2006 Award from the International Academy of Astronautics)

Chapter 17  –  excerpts

pages 440 and 441  – pdf file

History of Dong Feng (East Wind)

Chapter 17 describes the history of first satellite launches by France, Australia, Great Britain, Japan, People's Republic of China, India, and Israel.

Books on space and rockets in foreign countries, including China

Less than one year after Tsien's return to China, he was appointed president of Research Academy No.5 of the Ministry of National Defense. The Academy was created in May 1956, and it became China's first missile research establishment; the Second Artillery of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) would become the ballistic missile force. The Academy would be reorganized into the Seventh Ministry of Machine Building in 1965 and absorb at that time a number of other research, development, and manufacturing facilities. The ministry would subsequently become the Ministry of Space Industry on 19 December 1986.

The Soviet Union offered crucial help to jump start the ballistic missile program. Two R-1 (SS-1) rockets built by Korolev's design bureau were provided to China in 1956. More advanced R-2 (SS-2) missiles reached the country in December 1957. The missiles were followed by extensive engineering documentation and equipment and a large number of Soviet specialists arriving to organize production of the R-2 in China. Simultaneously, 50 Chinese students were sent to study missile technology in a leading Soviet educational engineering institution, the Moscow Aviation Institute.

Establishing production of the Chinese R-2, designated model 1059, created the foundations of the Chinese indigenous ballistic missile capabilities. More than 1400 organizations participated in this challenging undertaking and learned technology and manufacturing of various components, parts, and materials for the missile. The R-2 program was building, from scratch, the indispensable research, development, and manufacturing base for the new missile industry. At the same time PLA's 20th Corps and engineering units began construction of the Jiuquan missile test site in the Gobi desert. The number of students studying in the Soviet Union was also increased.

The range of the R-2 was limited to 600 km (370 miles), which was a smaller flight distance than needed to hit American military installations in Japan. In addition, the missile was not capable of carrying the projected weight of the first Chinese atomic bombs. Therefore, Research Academy No.5 initiated development of the new, more capable DF series of ballistic missiles; DF standing for Dong Feng or East wind in Chinese.

At first, Research Academy No. 5 sought to base its first missile design, DF-1, on the Soviet R-12 (SS-4) IRBM built by Yangel's design bureau. The Soviet Union, however, refused to provide this recently developed missile to China. Not being satisfied with “brotherly assistance” of Soviet comrades, the Chinese students studying in Moscow did their best to collect information on another ballistic missile, the Korolev's R-5 (SS-3), by copying restricted notes and talking to the instructors. But the Soviet Union considered the R-5 to be too advanced for transfer to another country.

There is room for only one truly Marxist sun shining in the communist skies. So, the disagreements between the USSR and PRC mounted, and the relations between two communist giants quickly deteriorated. (The late 1960s would even witness military skirmishes along the border.) So, the Soviet aid in the missile area was cut off, and Soviet specialists left Research Academy No.5 on 12 August 1960.

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Chinese scientists and engineers learned diligently from their one-time Soviet brothers, as they demonstrated by a successful launch of the first R-2 from a newly established missile test site in September 1960, one month after departure of the Soviet mentors. This first fired R-2 was actually built in the USSR, but it was fueled by the Chinese-made propellants. The successful launch of the Chinese-made R-2 followed on 5 November, and two more missiles were fired in December of the same year.

In a short time, the PRC had become capable of developing its own ballistic missiles. The new Chinese-designed and built missile DF-2 was expected to be capable of reaching any place in Japan with a 1500-kg (3300-lb) warhead. Tsien personally initiated development of another even more advanced long-range rocket similar in performance characteristics and configuration to the first Soviet ICBM R-7 (SS-6). This task was however too challenging for Chinese rocketeers at that time, and the program was cancelled in 1963.

The ranges of the successively produced Chinese ballistic missiles were linked to specific targets. So, the first DF-2 was designed to deliver atomic bombs to Japan. (China demonstrated its atomic bomb on 16 October 1964. Then on 26 October 1966, the PLA successfully launched a ballistic missile with a live atomic warhead that was detonated over the target area.) The modified and upgraded original DF-1 was renamed DF-3, and it was built to reach American bases Clark Field and Subic Bay in the Philippines. The DF-4 was capable of hitting Guam, a home of a B-52 fleet. (The shifting political priorities of 1970s forced extension of the capabilities of the DF-4 to put the Soviet capital, Moscow, within its range.) The DF-5 ICBM would cover the continental United States. Finally, the DF-6 was to be launched southward and, after flying over the Antarctic, to reach the United States from south. The Panama Canal also became one of its targets.

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