A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Saudis Show Their DF-3 IRBMs for the First Time

This happened two days ago but the first videos are turning up on YouTube: For the first time Saudi Arabia displayed its Dong Feng 3 (DF-3) missiles in a military parade at the Hafr al-Batin military base following maneuvers named Sayf ‘Abdullah (The Sword of ‘Abdullah).

The Chinese Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missiles (IRBMs) were first acquired in 1987-88, towards the end of the Iran-Iraq War, but they have never been publicly displayed before; the parade was presumably intended to send a message to Iran. The DF-3s have a range capable of reaching Tehran.

In Chinese service, the DF-3 carries a nuclear warhead, but the ones sold to the Saudis have conventional warheads. There has been speculation that the Chinese are replacing the DF-3s in Saudi service with newer solid-fueled missiles such as the DF-21. The Jane's article cited above notes that a 2013 photo showed the then-Deputy Defense Minister looking at a display case with three models of missiles, one of which appeared to be the more modern DF-25. Only the DF-3s (CSS-2s in NATO parlance) were shown in the parade, but again, that was their first public display despite being delivered some 26 years ago.

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