The PLA Second Artillery Corps (SAC) was officially established on 6 June 1966. However, by then surface-to-surface missile (SSM) units had already existed in the PLA for almost a decade. Under the camouflage of the PLA artillery corps, these units carried out all missile test launches prior to 1966 and also provided nucleus for the SAC. By 1961, the PLA had formed five SSM battalions. Their equipment was the R-2 liquid-propellant short-range ballistic missile provided by the Soviet Union and its Chinese copy DongFeng 1 (DF-1).
9 December 1957 – Creation of the PLA Artillery Training Group (解放军炮兵教导大队). Under the order of the Central Military Commission (CMC), a 570-man unit was created to take delivery of the R-2 SSM (PLA code name: 1059 Rocket). Its members were based on the personnel of the 5th Academy of the Ministry of National Defence and the PLA artillery corps. Everyone in the unit must go through a strict selection process to ensure that they not only had excellent performance but were also politically loyal. The group consisted of a headquarters, a command company, a launch company, a technical company, a transport company, a launch parameter preparation team and an interpreter team.
25 December 1957 – Delivery of the ‘1059 Rocket’ (R-2) and arrival of the Soviet Strategic Rocket troops. A complete R-2 missile battalion equipment and 102 officers and soldiers of the Soviet Strategic Rocket Forces arrived in Changxindian near Beijing by rail under high secrecy and tight security. One-to-one training between Soviet and Chinese crews started in January 1958.
May 1958 – Expansion of the Artillery Training Group. Upon the completion of the first-stage training and the withdrawal of the Soviet troops, the Artillery Training Group was expanded into three training battalions, with personnel from the Air Force, artillery corps, as well as PLA colleges. Its functions were also expanded to include the training of surface-to-air missile. Among the three training battalions of the group, the 2nd Training Battalion was trained directly by Soviet Air Defence Force troops to operate the ‘543 Missile’ (SA-2 Guideline SAM).
July 1959 – Disband of the Artillery Training Group. By June 1959, five batches of trainees had completed the ‘1059 Rocket’ training and one batch had completed the ‘543 Missile’ training. In July, the training group was disbanded and its equipment and personnel were split between the 5th Academy and artillery corps. At the same time, the 802nd Artillery Battalion was activated in the PLA Wuwei Artillery Corps School for further missile test missions.
March 1960 – Creation of the 801st Artillery Battalion. The battalion was activated under the PLA Xi’an Artillery Corps School.
September ~ December 1960 – First R-2 Launches (Mission 101). Preparation for China’s first R-2 missile launch under the code name Mission 101 began in November 1959 at Base 20 (Shuang Cheng Tzu missile centre). Despite the breaking up of the China-Soviet relation in late 1959 and Moscow’s subsequent decision to withdraw all of its assistance and advisers to China, the launch mission went ahead more or less as originally scheduled. At 07:42 local time on 10 September, a Russian-made R-2 missile fuelled with Chinese-made liquid propellant was launched from the Launch Area 3 (LA3) in Base 20. Few minutes later the missile hit the target zone 554km away. On 5 November, a R-2 missile with all Chinese-made components was successfully launched. Two subsequent launches using Chinese-made R-2 missiles on 5 December and 15 December were also successful.
January 1961 – Creation of three more battalions. Under the order of the CMC, an additional three “artillery battalions” were created in the Shenyang, Beijing, and Jinan Military Region. These battalions, together with the existing two battalions, were known as the “Old Five” of the SAC.
21 March 1962 – First DF-2 Launch. China made its first attempt to launch the DongFeng 2 (DF-2) ballistic missile, an enlarged version of the DF-1/R-2 with extended range. The missile exploded shortly after the launch.
25 October 1963 – DF-1 Launch. The 802nd Artillery Battalion successfully launched a DF-1 (R-2 copy) missile from Base 20.
3 November 1963 – DF-1 Launch. The 801st Artillery Battalion successfully launched another DF-1 missile from Base 20.
January 1964 – Expansion of the ‘Old Five’. The five missile launch battalions were expanded into regiments.
29 June 1964 – First successful DF-2 launch. Three DF-2 missiles were successfully launched from Base 20.
30 June 1966 – The 804th Regiment successfully launched a DF-1 missile from Base 20.
6 June 1966 – Creation of the Second Artillery Corps. Under the order of the CMC, the PLA Second Artillery Corps headquarter was officially formed on the basis of the disbanded PLA Public Security Army headquarters. General Xiang Shouzhi was appointed as the commander of the SAC and General Li Tianhuan was appointed as the political commissar.
1968 – Creation of the 806th Regiment
March 1977 – First mobile launch drill. The 803rd Regiment conducted the first ever field launch outside the missile test base in the history of the SAC. The drill was carried out in a combat background. The launches were conducted from a non-previously selected launch spot constructed by the regiment during the drill. Four missiles were launched, all being successful.
August 1978 – 806th Regiment Exercise. The 806th Regiment carried out an exercise with a reformed missile fuelling procedure. By adding oxidiser and UDMH fuel to the missile simultaneously, the launch preparation time was reduced to a third of what it used to be.
22 August ~ 19 September 1983 – First nuclear counter-strike drill. The SAC carried out its first nuclear counter-strike exercise in northwest China. Four DF-3 missiles were successfully launched in a unclear war background. All missiles hit their targets. The exercise was observed by all senior PLA officials including the Executive Vice Chairman of the CMC Yang Shangkun.
1985 – Creation of the first ICBM unit. The 801st Regiment was reorganised into the 801st Missile Brigade and became China’s first DF-5 ICBM launch unit.