China anniversary parade to unveil hi-tech military gear: report

Beijing (AFP) –


China will likely unveil a new supersonic drone and intercontinental ballistic missiles at a military parade next week marking 70 years of Communist Party rule, according to Paris-based researchers.

The October 1 procession will display the army's "unprecedented" conventional and nuclear ballistic capabilities, said the Paris-based Foundation for Strategic Research in a report based on images analysed by Geo4i.

The People's Liberation Army (PLA) has tried to keep its plans under wraps -- even moving tanks in the dead of night during dress rehearsals -- but the France-based researchers used satellite images to spot hardware likely to be shown off next week.

On Tuesday President Xi Jinping will preside over what Beijing has promised to be the biggest military and civilian parade in the history of the country.

The Chinese defence ministry says 15,000 troops will march next week, and 580 pieces of military hardware will be displayed -- as well as more than 160 aircraft.

Beijing has denied the procession will be an aggressive display of power, but the French report said the show of force will demonstrate the "quantitative and qualitative modernisation" of China's ballistic arsenal.

The research used images from the Yangfang military base in the suburbs of Beijing, which has replicas of Tiananmen Square and the southern gate of the Forbidden City to prepare for military parades.

The report says 36 ICBM-type missiles appeared during the rehearsals.

One of the missiles is the DF-41, which is the first Chinese solid-fuel propelled intercontinental missile to carry a heavy payload and cover the entire US territory, the foundation said.

The ICBM could carry up to 10 warheads, compared to three that can be carried by the DF-31AG missile.

China could also use the parade to display 16 DF-17s, a likely short-to-medium-range missile that works as a launcher of the DF-ZF hypersonic glider, which is hidden under a tarp in the satellite images.

The glider is believed to be able to carry conventional and nuclear devices, and be able to dodge anti-missile systems.

"The emergence of such a system would have a considerable impact, highlighting China's progress in designing hypersonic non-strategic gliders, a segment in which Russians and Americans are lagging behind," the foundation said.

China will also likely unveil the WZ-8, a supersonic reconnaissance drone that could potentially be deployed by aircraft, the research said.

Such a vehicle could be used to spot distant targets "on very short notice" and hit them with a conventional ballistic strike.

It could be joined at the parade by a stealth drone dubbed "Sharp Sword", which can support naval operations.

"These images herald a parade that, in form and substance, will mark a significant transformation of China's strategic nuclear and conventional forces," the report said.