Disco Music and the DF-26

If there is one thing that the public affairs office over at the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force loves, it is music videos. An almost endless stream of the things is constantly coming out on platforms like Weibo and Bilibili. The clips are usually formatted to include PLARF soldiers performing dance routines in front of either their brigade HQ building or on their track field, like this clip:


Or these soldiers dancing in MOPP gear (this looks really uncomfortable):


Not only do the dance clips provide a surprisingly useful source of ground truth imagery for the brigade garrisons, but these clips are also always accompanied by a seemingly arbitrarily selected montage of PLARF stock footage. Sometimes, the music videos show us clips we haven’t seen before. One of these videos, labeled a “disco” music video, was re-posted to Bilibili recently and contains some very interesting images:





If you can get through the music (that, for the record, is definitely NOT disco), several of the clips clearly show DF-26 intermediate-range ballistic missiles as well as some interesting images of the system in the field. This is one of the PRC’s newer missile systems, with a range of around 4,000km. The DF-26 is dual-capable as well, able to carry conventional or nuclear warheads. The system is purported to be accurate enough to be used in an anti-ship role, but how exactly this functions and integrates with their over-the-horizon radar is debated. The PLARF's inventory of DF-26s appears to be growing pretty rapidly. The second interesting thing about these pictures is the window pattern. You would think that PLARF brigades would standardize the designs for their high-bay garages to make positive brigade IDs based on indoor imagery impossible. It seems that the PLARF has done the opposite. Most brigade high-bays are made with unique design characteristics. The alternating window pattern in this imagery is a match for exactly one high-bay: the new high-bay at Brigade 625, in Jianshui (23°44'19.40"N, 102°52'18.39"E).


Jianshui was already a suspected DF-26 brigade based on some previous reporting that Henry Boyd over at IISS had done. Previously this garrison hosted Brigade 621 (formerly Brigade 802), but 621 was moved up to the new brigade garrison at Yibin. 621 is believed to still be equipped with the DF-21, but I have seen no ground truth imagery of the location. The new high-bay here was built in 2016 around the time that 625 moved in.

Jianshui garrison itself is interesting enough to warrant a small note on it. It's one of the very few brigade garrisons with dedicated practice facilities on the grounds of the garrison. Some very unique looking high-bays are scattered in this area. They appear to be practice launch facilities, with the high-bay covering a probable concrete pad. These facilities were originally intended to be DF-21 launch practice sites, and it is unknown if the DF-26 uses the same launch configuration. One of the other high-bays like this has been taken down, and a circular launch pad built sometime before 2014 has had buildings build over it. But the area is still used for training. In the latest Google Earth image as of 4/20/20, a large practice is occurring in the training area.



Confirmation that 625 is equipped with the DF-26 would bring the total number of DF-26 brigades up to four, joining brigades 666, 626, and probably 654. This will probably not be the last new DF-26 brigade we see, given that satellite imagery of both of the production locations for the DF-26 shows they are still being produced in large numbers. The new brigades at Base 65 are the next suspected DF-26 garrison locations. Given this development, I have updated the KMZ and the order of battle table accordingly. Bolded brigades are confirmed to be equipped with the specified armament:



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