The Chinese DF-5 missile

Norbert Brügge, Germany

The Dong Feng-5 (DF-5) is an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). The two-stage, liquid-propellant missile has a range of 10,000 - 13,000 km. It has also been developed into the Chang Zheng-2 (CZ-2) space launch vehicle.
The DF-5 was designed and developed by the Beijing-based China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (1st Academy), and built by the Capital Aerospace Machinery Corporation (Plant 211). A second DF-5 production facility known as the Sichuan Aerospace Industry Corporation (Base 062) is located in Chengdu, Sichuan Province.
The DF-5 powered by a liquid bipropellant, with unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine (UDMH) as fuel and nitrogen tetroxide (N2H4) as an oxidiser. The first-stage consists of four parallel 75t-thrust YF-20 chambers motors with swinging nozzles. The second-stage utilises a 75t-thrust YF-22 motor with a fixed nozzle, and a swiveling vernier motor with four 4.8t-thrust YF-23 chambers, which were designed for steering and sustaining propulsion for a further 190 seconds after the shutting of the main motor, and enabling a wide aiming arc for the re-entry vehicles in the upper atmosphere. The propellant tank of the missile was made of high-strength, lightweight aluminium-cooper alloy. The re-entry vehicle is fitted with a heat shield made of carbon/quartz materials.

The programme definition phase began in May 1966. The development of the first-stage rocket motor was completed on 14 June 1969. The design of the missile was completed in June 1970. The ground test of the rocket motor succeeded in November 1970. The first test missile ‘Batch-01-Y1′ rolled out in June 1971.
The first flight test of the DF-5 (batch-01) in September 1971 from the Jiuquan missile test range was only partially successful. The second missile was launched in November 1972, but two of the four rocket motors failed to ignite, causing an emergent shut down. The same missile was launched again in April 1973 but it exploded in the midair.
Following two failed flight tests. Then the DF-5 programme was stopped in October 1973. The remaining four missiles of the same design were all converted into the CZ-2 space launch vehicles to support the recoverable satellite programme. On 5 November 1974, the first CZ-2 carrying a JSSW recoverable capsule was launched from Jiuquan, but the rocket lost control shortly after the launch.
In May 1975 the development of the DF-5 again resumed. China Academy of Launch Vehicle (CALT) modified the design of the rocket’s first-stage in order to improve its reliability. From November 1975 to January 1978, three consecutive launches of the CZ-2 with FSW recoverable capsule were all successful. The first successful depressed trajectory (DT) flight test of the DF-5 (batch-02) missile was conducted successfully in October 1978. Six subsequent launches between January and October 1979 were all successful. Some of these launches were conducted from underground silos.
The full-range flight test of the missile was approved in September 1977, and the order for proceeding with the test was issued on 12 February 1980. Preparation for the test began in March. On 18 May 1980, a DF-5 (codename: 580A) was launched from the Jiuquan launch site. After flying for 29 minutes and 57 seconds over a distance of 9,070 km, the missile’s re-entry vehicle hit its targeted landing in the South Pacific. A second missile (codename: 580B) was launched on 21 May. However, the second-stage of the missile was shut down 6.4 seconds early, resulting in the missile’s re-entry vehicle missing its targeted landing spot. The last pre-deployment flight test of the DF-5 took place on 7 December 1981, with a modified DF-5 launched from a silo at the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Centre for a high-ballistic flight test.

211 Factory and Base 062 produced a total of 16 DF-5 (batch-02) missiles for various flight test between 1978 and 1981. Of it 8 missiles fired and 2 delivered for operational deployment. The remaining missiles were converted into the CZ-2C for the FSW satellite launches. In July 1986, the nuclear warhead of the DF-5 was certified for design finalisation. On 16 December 1986, the DF-5 received its certificate for design finalisation.
Between 1987 and 1989, Base 062 produced five DF-5 (batch-03) missiles for operational deployment. One of the missiles was test fired in the autumn of 1989. This was also the last known DF-5 test. The remaining missiles were reportedly upgraded to the DF-5A standard in the early 1990s. The batch 04 of eight missiles were produced by Base 062 in 1994 - 1995, possibly in the improved DF-5A design.
DF-5 has a maximum range of 9,000 - 10,000 km, and DF-5A has an extended range of over 13,000 km.

Vehicle type

Launch date

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Taiyuan (Silo)

R &D


Foto Gallery



Jiuquan:  DF-5 (batch-01)

Jiuquan:  DF-5 (batch-02)


DF-5 (batch-02)




Jiuquan:: DF-5A launch

Taiyuan: DF-5A launch

DF-5/5A WH


China in 2015 has presented a new variant of the DF-5 ICBM, which has a redesigned warhead for a multiple loading

DF-5B silo launch