Missiles, drones and tanks: China shows off military prowess

Missiles, drones and tanks: China shows off military prowess

Military vehicles drive in a military parade at Tiananmen Square
Military vehicles drive in a military parade at Tiananmen Square in Beijing on Oct 1, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Greg Baker)

BEIJING: China put its growing military might on full display Tuesday (Oct 1) with a parade of new ballistic missiles, supersonic drones and next-generation battlefield tanks that highlighted Beijing's accelerating race to match the firepower of its US rival.

The tightly choreographed procession across Tiananmen Square underscored a level of material and technological innovation that is increasingly viewed by many as a threat to US dominance in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.

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President Xi Jinping, who reviewed the troops before the parade marking 70 years of Communist Party rule, has pushed for the People's Liberation Army to become a "world-class" military by mid-century.

China's rapid military modernisation comes as it faces rising diplomatic tensions with the United States, with Washington worried about Beijing's territorial claims in the South China Sea and its ambitions to reunify self-governed Taiwan with the mainland.

A KJ-2000 airborne early warning and control system leads J-10 fighter jets
A KJ-2000 airborne early warning and control system leads J-10 fighter jets during a military parade in Beijing on Octr 1, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Greg Baker)

Some 15,000 PLA soldiers marched, while 580 pieces of military hardware rolled across the square and 160 aircraft buzzed overhead as Xi and other party leaders looked on.

One of the standout new additions on display was the intercontinental ballistic missile DF-41, which can possibly carry up to 10 nuclear warheads and reach any point in the United States.

Chinese soldiers participate in a military parade (1)
Chinese soldiers participate in a military parade at Tiananmen Square in Beijing on Oct 1, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Greg Baker)

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According to state news agency Xinhua, the Dongfeng-41 missiles are "the mainstay of China's strategic nuclear strength".

Another star at the parade was the ballistic missile JL-2, which can be fired from a submarine and is equipped with a nuclear charge.

Military vehicles carrying DF-5B intercontinental ballistic missiles
Military vehicles carrying DF-5B intercontinental ballistic missiles participate in a military parade at Tiananmen Square in Beijing on Oct 1, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Greg Baker)

Its supposed range of 8,000km would allow it to reach Alaska and parts of the western United States, according to military information company Jane's.

Military vehicles carrying missiles participate in a military parade
Military vehicles carrying missiles participate in a military parade at Tiananmen Square in Beijing on Oct 1, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Greg Baker)

A new cruise missile, the DF-100, is reputed to travel beyond the speed of sound and be able to neutralise aircraft carriers.

Military vehicles carrying DF-100 ground-based land-attack missiles
Military vehicles carrying DF-100 ground-based land-attack missiles participate in a military parade at Tiananmen Square in Beijing on Oct 1, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Greg Baker)

The short-to-medium-range DF-17 missile made its public debut. It is believed to be capable of releasing a "hypersonic glider" from the edge of space, with a tough-to-predict trajectory.

A DF-17 missile is presented during a military parade
A DF-17 missile is presented during a military parade at Tiananmen Square in Beijing on Oct 1, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Greg Baker)

For the first time, Beijing showed off its WZ-8 drone, a supersonic reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicle that could potentially be deployed by aircraft.

A Chinese unmanned aerial vehicle is presented during a military parade
A Chinese unmanned aerial vehicle is presented during a military parade at Tiananmen Square in Beijing on Oct 1, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Greg Baker)

Anti-terrorist assault vehicles and armoured anti-riot vehicles from the Falcon Commando Unit also rolled through the square, which Xinhua said was "mainly used to crack down on terrorism and violence" and used for "dealing with emergencies and fighting riots".

Chinese soldiers participate in a military parade
Chinese soldiers participate in a military parade at Tiananmen Square in Beijing on Oct 1, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Greg Baker)

The parade also featured new-generation main battlefield 99A tanks.

Xinhua said 40 per cent of the weaponry displayed at the parade was new and all the armaments were made domestically.

"CLOSING THE GAP"

Adam Ni, an expert on China's military modernisation at Macquarie University in Sydney, told AFP the parade showed a "substantial progress of China's nuclear forces".

"Its nuclear arms are increasingly more mobile, resilient, reliable, precise, and technologically advanced," he said.

"They are also more diversified: China is transitioning its nuclear force from a reliance on land-based to one that is also sea-based and air-based, using submarines and stealth bombers."

Chinese soldiers participate in a military parade
Chinese soldiers participate in a military parade at Tiananmen Square in Beijing on Oct 1, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Greg Baker)

Xi said in a speech to kick off the parade that China only seeks "peaceful development" and that the two-million-strong PLA will "firmly uphold world peace".

"This display of nuclear weapons doesn't signal a change in China's nuclear strategy," said Cui Yiliang, editor-in-chief of industry magazine "Modern warships".

Military vehicles carrying military aircraft participat
Military vehicles carrying military aircraft participate in a military parade at Tiananmen Square in Beijing on Oct 1, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Greg Baker)

"It will continue to have a small but effective nuclear arsenal. The goal is to have a nuclear deterrent and be able to conduct a second strike in retaliation in case of an attack by a third country," Cui said.

In July Beijing outlined a national defence plan to build a modern, high-tech army.

Chinese troops during military parade marking China's 70th anniversary
Chinese troops march during a military parade in Tiananmen Square in Beijing on Oct 1, 2019, to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. (Photo: AFP/Greg Baker)

China's defence spending is second only to the United States - though it still lags far behind - and it said earlier this year it planned to raise it by 7.5 per cent in 2019, though the increase in expenditure has slowed as the economy has cooled in recent years.

In March Beijing said it would spend 1.19 trillion yuan (US$177.6 billion) on defence in 2019, after it increased its outlay by 8.1 per cent to 1.11 trillion yuan in 2018, according to a government report presented at the start of the annual meeting of the National People's Congress (NPC).

Soldiers of People's Liberation Army (PLA) stand on military vehicles travelling past Tiananme
Soldiers of People's Liberation Army (PLA) stand on military vehicles travelling past Tiananmen Square during the military parade marking the 70th founding anniversary of People's Republic of China, on its National Day in Beijing, China Oct 1, 2019. (Photo: Reuters/Jason Lee)

A report in April by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute found China's military spending has risen 83 per cent since 2009, bringing it up to second place, ahead of Saudi Arabia, India and France.

Soldiers of People's Liberation Army (PLA) march in formation past Tiananmen Square before a m
Soldiers of People's Liberation Army (PLA) march in formation past Tiananmen Square during a rehearsal before a military parade marking the 70th founding anniversary of People's Republic of China, on its National Day in Beijing, China Oct 1, 2019. (Photo: Reuters/Jason Lee)

According to the report, the US figure alone of US$649 billion in 2018 was as much as the next eight highest military budgets.

James Char, a military expert at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University, warned there is still some way before China is as big a military technological power as the US.

"Actual martial prowess is not as easily showcased as displaying military hardware," he said.

"So showing off these weapons - some of them probably still prototypes - at the parade has to be the easiest method for the Chinese Communist Party regime to showcase the country's military might to the world," Char said.

Source: AFP/ic

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