May 18, 2012: The Chinese Second Artillery Corps (SAC) is getting new camouflage uniforms. Rather than wear the same camo the rest of the army does, SAC is getting a custom pattern designed for maximum effect in the mountain forests where this mobile missile force operates. SAC controls many of China's ballistic missiles.
SAC is spread over several provinces and has been expanding over the last decade. SAC recently added two brigades, apparently armed with the long rumored Chinese anti-ship ballistic missile, the DF-21D. This gives the Second Artillery Corps ten DF-21 brigades, plus brigades with several other types of missiles. Each of the DF-21 missile brigades has six missile battalions (with two mobile launchers each), two maintenance and repair battalions, a site management battalion, a signal battalion, and an electronic countermeasures (ECM) battalion. The DF-21D is mainly intended for use against the USN (U.S. Navy), particularly the aircraft carriers.
The other eight DF-21 brigades in the Second Artillery Corps are the older models. The basic DF-21 is a 15 ton, two stage, solid fuel missile that is 10.7 meters (35 feet) long and 140cm (4.6 feet) in diameter. Range varies (from 1,700-3,000 kilometers) depending on model. While the 500-2,000 kg (.5-2 ton) warhead usually contains a nuclear weapon, it is believed that China also has a conventional warhead. This would be used against targets in Taiwan, since the DF-21, as a longer range ballistic missile, comes down on the target faster than the thousand or so shorter range ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan. That means that the DS-21 is too fast for the Pac-3 anti-missile missiles Taiwan is installing around crucial installations.
Meanwhile, as far as anyone knows, or will admit, the complete DF-21D system has not yet been tested. There may have been some tests over the last two years and all the components of the system are apparently present and working. There are photos of DF-21Ds on TELs (transporter erector launcher vehicles) and announcements of new units activated two years ago.
Many Chinese ballistic missiles are operated from TELs, which are often moved from location to location randomly, to make it more difficult for an enemy to attack the missiles before they can be launched. This is the justification for special camo for the SAC troops. But the special camo will also identify those wearing it as members of the elite SAC and thus also provides a morale boost.