I often observe that I am a lousy imagery analyst. Sean O’Connor, it seems to me, is a very, very good one.
After an earlier post on my blog, he’s gone out and, in a very nice piece of research, identified what appears to be the DF-31 deployment area near Nanyang, China:
Nanyang is located in east-central China, approximately 850 kilometers southeast of Beijing and 180 kilometers south of Luoyang. Analysis of the surrounding area has led to the location of six DF-31 launch sites approximately 30 kilometers northwest of Nanyang. The six DF-31 launch sites can be found at the following coordinates:
Further evidence that these locations are DF-31 launch positions can be found in the characteristics of the DF-31 TEL itself. The DF-31’s Hanyang HY4301 TEL consists of a missile launch canister mounted on a trailer which is towed by a four axle tractor. This configuration is clearly not off-road capable. That being the case, DF-31 deployed launch sites would have to be near major roads in order to facilitate dispersal of the TELs. This fact, when combined with the information that Brigade 813 is based in Nanyang, supports the conclusion that the sites identified above are in fact DF-31 ICBM launch positions.
There are at least two policy implications of his research, if this is the right area.
- First, the road-mobile DF-31 may not be truly survivable because the launch positions appear to be pre-surveyed. (If you think about inertial guidance, errors in the initial position of the missile will degrade accuracy.)
- Second, Nanyang is located in Central China. It’s 7,250 km range would not be enough to target the continental United States (Even Juneau, Alaska is out of range.)