China displays its most advanced weapons in National Day parade

11:33, October 01, 2009      

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China on Thursday displayed some of its most sophisticated weaponry in a grand military review to mark the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic.

Fifty-two types of new weapon systems developed and made in China, including the country's most advanced nuclear-capable missiles, were displayed. Ninety percent of the weapons were exposed to paraded for the first time.

A total of 56 phalanxes, consisting of 8,000 servicemen and women, nearly 500 tanks, missiles and other military vehicles and 151 warplanes, joined the parade in front of the Tian'anmen Square in the heart of Beijing.

Chinese President Hu Jintao reviewed the assembled marchers, standing in an open-roof black Red Flag limousine. Hundreds of millions of Chinese watched the televised parade on TV or Internet.

EQUIPMENT IN SPOTLIGHT

The most eye-catching weapons paraded were five types of missiles of the Second Artillery Force (SAF), China's core force of strategic deterrence, including China's most sophisticated nuclear-capable intercontinental missiles.

The gigantic weapons in camouflaged colors rolled on long-bed trucks, triggering exciting cheers and applause from spectators at the Tian'anmen Square.

SAF's land-based cruise missile also made its debut at the once-in-a-decade military parade. The conventional cruise missile is able to perform long-range low-altitude precision strikes.

Also on rare public display were SAF's three types of conventional missiles.

China started to develop strategic missile weapons in 1956. Over the past decades, the SAF has grown into "a lean and effective strategic force with both nuclear and conventional missiles, capable of both land-based strategic nuclear counterattacks and precision strikes with conventional missiles," a White Paper on National Defense released January said.

Despite the improvement of its nuclear-capable weapons, China has repeatedly assured the world that it pursues "a self-defensive nuclear strategy."

"We have adhered to the policy of no-first-use of nuclear weapons at anytime and under any circumstance, and made the unequivocal commitment that we will unconditionally not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states or nuclear-weapon-free zones," President Hu said last week in a speech at the U.N. Security Council nuclear summit in New York.

The parade also displayed advanced weapons of the Navy, including anti-ship missiles, ship-to-air missiles, ground-to-ship missiles and amphibious vehicles.

At the military parade to mark the 60th anniversary of China's Navy last April, China already displayed its nuclear submarine. Other cutting-edge weaponry on display included China's new generation of tanks, sophisticated radar, unmanned aerial vehicles and satellite communication devices.

Following the ground formations was a fly-over, featuring 151 warplanes ranging from China's most advanced J-10 and J-11 fighter jets to airborne early warning and control aircraft, bombers, aerial tankers, and helicopters.

Sixty years ago when Chairman Mao Zedong reviewed the Chinese troops on the founding ceremony of the new China, only 17 warplanes, mostly seized from enemies in the Chinese War of Resistance Against Japanese Regression and the Liberation War against Kuomintang, joined the parade.

"With new fighter jets, airborne early warning and control aircraft, aerial tankers and a series of new air-to-air, air-to-ground, ground-to-air missiles, China's Air Force is forming a complete and advanced combat system," Professor Wang Mingliang with the Air Force Command College.

Liang Guanglie, minister of defense, said in an interview with Xinhua in late September that China's army has taken a historical step forward in weaponry and equipment over the past decades.

"We have had military-use satellites, advanced fighter aircraft in the air, newly designed tanks, cannons and missiles on land and advanced naval vessels and submarines at sea," Liang said.

"On the whole, we've already possessed all the equipment that western developed countries have. Many of our weaponry have reached or come close to the world-leading standards," he said.


A TRANSFORMED ARMY

Military watchers agreed that in addition to hardware, the "soft" capabilities of the Chinese army have also been greatly upgraded and the PLA, once composed mainly of uneducated peasant soldiers, is being transformed into a lean, professional and high-tech force.

Wearing green, white and blue ceremonial or camouflage uniforms, more than 3,000 Chinese servicemen and women from China's elite troops, marched past the Tian'anmen Square in 14 phalanxes with identical steps to the music played by a 1,300-member military band.

In between the two ornamental pillars standing on each side of the Tian'anmen, soldiers have to take exactly 128 goosesteps in 96meters. Each step should be exactly 0.75 meters.

Over the past months, participating servicemen and women, most of whom were born in the 1980s and 1990s, had trained for nearly 12 hours a day, even in summer when temperatures exceeded 40 Celsius.

Four phalanxes, each with 325 members, were composed of would-be officers from prestigious military academies of the PLA Army, Air Force, Navy and the SAF.

Li Hanjun, commander of the naval academy formation, said all the student officers in his formation have two majors. Nearly one third of them had traveled overseas on warships and some even sailed around the world.

"Compared with my generation, they have much broader vision," 44-year-old Li said.

A total of 14 arms from four PLA services participated in the National Day parade, including the young and mysterious Special Forces of the PLA Army, marine aviation troops from the Navy and ground air defense from the Air Force.

Compared with the National Day military parade 10 years ago, Thursday's parade involved fewer personnel and more equipment, fewer Army troops and more troops from PLA Navy, Air force and the Second Artillery Force.

Lieutenant General Fang Fenghui, general director of the parade, told Xinhua that the formation of the phalanxes shows the ongoing transformation of the PLA from a labor-intensive force to a technology-intensive one and its ability to carry out diverse military missions.

With the rapid development of information technology, the PLA has speeded up its pace of mechanization and informatization. The PLA has announced that it will reach its goal of building "modernized" armed forces and national defense system in the mid of the 21st century.

In keeping with the modernization process, the PLA has demobilized millions of men and women since 1978. The number of its personnel declined from a peak figure of nearly 6 million in 1951 to 2.3 million at present.

In 2003, the Central Military Committee began to implement a Strategic Project for Talented People, which proposes that by the end of 2010, there will be a remarkable improvement in the quality of military personnel, and a big increase in the number of well-educated personnel in combat units.

Currently, about three quarters of China's military officers have been to college or postgraduate schools, 51 percent more thanin 1995, according to a White Paper on national Defense issued last January.

Source: Xinhua
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