China has test-launched a new ballistic missile design with a 14,000 kilometre range, according to local news reports.
Capable of being equipped with up to 10 different warhead types, the Dongfeng-41 (DF-41) intercontinental missile could strike targets well within the United States' boundaries.
Carried out by the PLA (People's Liberation Army), the DF-41 test launch actually occurred in July 2012 but only now have details of it surfaced online. "The new missile's mobility, precession and warhead yield combined give China a first strike capability", PLA officials have been quoted as having said. Even so, China insists that the DF-41 and its other indigenous intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) are designed to be used solely in counter-attack operations.
The DF-41 ICBM is the latest in a long line of Dongfeng missiles. According to military analysts, it's been in development since the 1980s and has a top speed of up to Mach 25. Directed by an Inertial guidance system, it can be launched from a range of platforms, it's around 15 metres long and weighs an estimated 66,000 pounds.
Data released by the Pentagon in May 2012 suggests China's military budget for this year lies between $120bn and $180bn. It's forecast that the Chinese military budget will be more like $220bn in just three years time and that's more than the 12 nations that border China currently spend between them.
Chinese DF-41 Missile launch
Despite the Chinese DF-41 missile test launch news, there are some that think that the missile involved wasn't the third-generation DF-41 at all but an older Dongfeng variant.
"The challenges and difficulties between the second and third generation of ICBMs are very complicated, and the intelligence I've gathered tells me that China is still incapable of overcoming many problems, even though they have spent more than 20 years to develop it", the Kanwa Asian Defence Monthly publication's editor, Andrei Chang, explained to the South China Morning Post.
The first Dongfeng missile was the DF-1, which was a licence-built version of a Soviet missile, while prior to the DF-41's advent, the most recent was the DF-31. This entered PLA service in 2006 and since then, the upgraded DF-31A has also been test-launched.
Main image copyright US Navy - Courtesy Wikimedia Commons. Used for illustrative purposes only. Second image depicts actual DF-41 missile