Beijing Rehearsal Shows Off New Missiles
By Wendell Minnick
Taipei - Photos of the Sept. 6 rehearsal parade for the 60th anniversary of the Oct. 1 founding of the People's Republic of China are generating excitement among China watchers.
"Obviously, the Chinese are going to put on a real show for the 60th anniversary," said Richard Bitzinger, a former CIA analyst now with the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Singapore.
The People's Liberation Army (PLA) exhibited a wide range of arms never before seen by the public.
During the 1999 parade, China displayed only three road-mobile Dong Feng 31 (DF-31) ICBMs, but this year the number jumped to eight. Analysts are assuming the missiles are the new DF-31A variant, capable of carrying three multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRV). The DF-31A is the first road-mobile nuclear ICBM capable of hitting Washington.
"This is a sign they are sending a message to Washington that they have a counterstrike capability," said Andrei Chang, China defense analyst, Kanwa Information Center.
The DF-41 ICBM was a no show at the rehearsal despite speculation China would show the missile for the first time to the public. There is still a chance the missile could appear on Oct. 1.
"If the DF-41 is not shown, it could be that they are still testing it and don't want to look premature in revealing it," Bitzinger said. Based on the DF-31, the DF-41 will have a range of 11,000-13,000 kilometers and carry 10 MIRVs.
The PLA is moving toward a MIRV nuclear missile capability, said Richard Fisher, vice president of the Washington-based International Assessment and Strategy Center.
The Dong Hai 10 (DH-10) long-range land-attack cruise missile (LACM) also made its first appearance to the public. The DH-10 is a three-missile tube variant of the Russian Raduga Kh-55 cruise missile. China procured six Kh-55s from Ukraine during the 1990s.
China has more than 200 DH-10s deployed along the coast across from Taiwan. The missile's range, in excess of 1,500 kilometers, also places Okinawa, at 700 kilometers, within striking distance.
"I think it's significant that they are taking the wraps off the DH-10, which openly demonstrates China's LACM capabilities," Bitzinger said. "The West has been talking for years about China's nascent LACM capabilities, and now it seems that the PLA has arrived. Obviously, this complicates missile defense, especially for regional U.S. forces and allies."
Photographs of the rehearsal also reveal there were several new short-range missile variants, including a DF-15 upgrade with new warhead stabilizer fins, a DF-11 with a modified warhead, possibly a penetrator, and a medium-range DF-21C equipped with a new engine.
"This is the first real opportunity to see the DF-21C with a pointed launch tube top," Fisher said. This missile is the basis for the future anti-ship ballistic missile program, which is part of China's anti-access strategy to deny U.S. navy ships from coming to Taiwan's aid during a war.
Another photograph, though unclear, could be the YJ-91 missile. Based on the Russian Kh-31 anti-radiation missile, the YJ-91 comes in both anti-radiation and anti-ship variants.
There were also two UAVs on display. One has been identified as the ASN-206 with a "curious saucer-bulb above the forward fuselage; a likely satellite com link or some kind of radar," Fisher said.
A second UAV photo is unclear, but could be the old ASN-205 that now serves largely as a target drone.
INFANTRY VEHICLES AND EQUIPMENT
The rehearsal also displayed a variety of new armored and infantry vehicles using a new digital camouflage pattern.
"This is intended to fox modern digitally enhanced imaging devices used in tanks, anti-tank devices and UAVs," Fisher said.
New vehicles on display include the ZBD97 infantry fighting vehicle (IFV), 155mm PLZ05 self-propelled artillery, and the Type-99G main battle tank (MBT).
The ZBD97 appears to be an attempt by the PLA to produce a well-armed IFV similar to the Russian BMP-3 series.
The Type-99G MBT is the most modern variant of the new Type-98/99 series first seen in the 1999 parade. Improvements include an upgraded turret with detachable and upgradable composite armor, use of explosive reactive armor, plus improved engine and targeting systems.
There was also a new PLA Marine Corps blue camouflage IFV whose real designator remains unknown. Images have appeared on the Internet since 2005, but this is the first public display.