China Parade Displays New Arms, Hints of Others
By WENDELL MINNICK
TAIPEI — China celebrated the 60th anniversary of its founding with a massive military parade in Beijing complete with missiles and miniskirted female pilots. The parade also included floats representing each of its provinces, including one for Taiwan dubbed “Treasured Island.”
If the red miniskirts and Taiwan float seemed gaudy and otherworldly, the new missiles, radars and advanced fighters cast a more somber mood.
The parade also had a Cold War feel to it, reminding many of the old Soviet-era May Day parades that bristled with the latest weapons. The largest proportion of the show included 8,000 troops forming 56 phalanxes, along with 500 tanks.
For some, the parade demonstrated a lack of self-confidence by Beijing.
“The scale and effort of the parade demonstrates a certain degree of insecurity,” said Mark Stokes, a former U.S. defense official. “Most countries who are confident in their military posture do not need to go to such extremes.”
For others, the parade offered a “useful snapshot” of China’s “hardware modernization,” said Tai Ming Cheung, author of the new book, “Fortifying China: The Struggle to Build a Modern Defense Economy.”
The PLA has come a long way since the 1999 parade, “in that it has laid the basic foundations for a more high-tech, network-centric, more balanced and joint force, but it is a long way from achieving its aspirational objective of becoming an informationized army,” Tai said.
The parade demonstrated a commitment to developing a strategic missile capability that clearly targets the United States. China showed off the latest road-mobile ballistic and cruise missiles, including Dong Feng 11A and DF15B short-range ballistic missiles (SRBM), DF-21C medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBM) and DF31A intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM). The parade also displayed the 3,000-kilometer-range Dong Hai-10 (DH-10) land-attack cruise missile (LACM).
The DF-15 (M-9) SRBMs first saw action during the 1995-96 Taiwan Strait missile crisis. During the crisis, China launched 10 DF15s into the waters just north and south of Taiwan.
However, since 1996, the range of the DF-11 has been extended from 280 to 600 kilometers, and the DF-15 has been extended from 600 to 800 kilometers. China has roughly 1,000 to 1,300 DF-11/15s aimed at Taiwan.
The parade exposed other improvements, said Stokes, author of the book “China’s Strategic Modernization,” including new fins on the DF-15 that indicate it is now equipped with a maneuverable re-entry vehicle.
“This will make it much harder for the Patriot PAC-3 based in Okinawa and Taiwan to hit the missile,” Stokes said.
China also paraded the DF-21C MRBM. A DF-21D variant is now being developed as an anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM), he said, capable of knocking out U.S. aircraft carriers. The ASBM is part of China’s anti-access strategy designed to keep the U.S. Navy as far away from Taiwan as possible during an invasion.
The parade also showed off the DF-31A, which is China’s first roadmobile ICBM capable of hitting Washington. Prior to this missile, China relied on 20 aging silo-based DF-5 ICBMs for use as nuclear counterstrikes on Washington.
Also on display was the DH-10 LACM. Stokes said the DH-10 was also being modified into an antiship variant. It will come in both mobile land-based and air-launched versions.
The Easton Report
A new report released on Oct. 1, “The Assassin Under the Radar,” by Ian Easton, a researcher for the Washington-based Project 2049 Institute, indicates there are new concerns over China’s development of two new long-range cruise missiles: the Hong Niao-2000 (HN2000) and the Qian Xuesen.
The HN-2000 will have a range of 4,000 kilometers and be equipped with millimeter wave radar, synthetic-aperture radar and the Chinese Beidou satellite guidance system, with land-based, air-launched and submarine-launched variants, most likely on Type 093 nuclear attack submarines.
The Chinese are also attempting to develop an intercontinental cruise missile with a range of more than 8,000 kilometers. Easton said China is studying the U.S. common aero vehicle program closely to develop a combination ballisticcruise missile dubbed the Qian Xuesen Missile. He said both missiles should be ready for the 2019 parade for China’s 70th anniversary.
Around 150 aircraft, flying in 12 echelons, were in the parade, including the J-10, J-11 and J-8 fighters, the H-6H medium-range bomber armed with the Ying Ji-63 (KD-63) LACM, and the H-6U aerial refueling tanker. Two types of UAVs were displayed, the ASN105B and the ASN-207.
One KJ-2000 and two KJ-200 Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft led the air show portion of the celebration.
“It was telling that the AWACS led the air parade, and while there were displays of electronics and radar systems among ground platforms, they consisted of just a small element of the overall show,” Tai said, indicating China is still largely a low-tech military, though it is improving quickly.
The parade can be epitomized by the Chinese saying “rich nation, strong army,” which has been the aspiration of Chinese leaders stretching back to imperial times, Tai said. “In other words, the Chinese leadership believes that the country’s military strength has to be commensurate with its growing economic strength,” he said.