February 16, 2010: Chinese officials were quick to respond to the recent Indian success in getting their Agni III ballistic missile into active service. This came about after the fourth test of the fifty ton, two stage, solid fuel missile. Agni III has a range of 3,500 kilometers and was built to reach targets in China. Chinese officials pointed out that India was, with the Agni III, still at least a decade behind China in the long range ballistic missiles department.
The Chinese introduced the DF-21 in 1999. This missile has a range of over 1,800 kilometers and can haul a 300 kiloton nuclear warhead. It's a two stage, 15 ton, solid fuel rocket. Launched from Tibet, the DF-21 can reach most major targets in India.
Fifteen years ago, China put the larger DF-31 into service. Sort of. This was China's first solid fuel ICBM (with a range of over 8,000 kilometers) and roughly equivalent to the U.S. Minuteman I of the 1960s. The DF-31 weighs about 46 tons and is 60 feet long and 7 feet in diameter. It was designed for use on submarines, land silos and mobile launchers (which would halt at those "parking lots in the middle of nowhere" visible in satellite pictures of Qinghai province). The DF-31 has been shown stored in a TEL (transporter, erector, launcher) vehicle. Driving these vehicles along special highways in remote areas provides more protection from counterattacks, than using a reinforced silo.
The DF-31 was been in development for over twenty years, and only had its first successful launch eleven years ago. It's now believed to have a reliable and accurate guidance system, as well as a third stage that carries three 50 kiloton warheads. Only about a dozen DF-31s are in service.
The Chinese officials were also quick to dismiss Indian efforts on anti-missile systems (in cooperation with Israel). The Chinese comments appear to be largely for internal consumption, as the Indian efforts are belittled, and it is strongly implied that the Indian missiles not really ready for prime time.