China's 70th National Day: Parade unveils new military tech, ballistic missiles and supersonic drones

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BEIJING - China unveiled its newest and most modern weapons at a massive military parade to commemorate the country's 70th anniversary on Tuesday (Oct 1), showing off how its military capabilities have improved under President Xi Jinping.

Among the military tech unveiled by Beijing included a range of strategic weapons such as the anticipated Dongfeng-41 (DF-41) intercontinental ballistic missile, DF-17 hypersonic ballistic missile, and supersonic drones.

Keen military observers had long suspected that Beijing would take the opportunity to show off these advanced weapons at the parade.

During the three parade rehearsals along Chang'an Avenue last month, pictures of what looked like these weapons covered under military canvas had circulated online.

The DF-41, China's next generation ICBM, has an estimated range of between 12,000km and 15,000km and is capable of striking any point in United States territory.

It can also carry a much heavier payload of 10 warheads, compared to the DF-31AG.

Analysts say the DF-41 was proof of China's capacity for innovation in its strategic weapons, and shows that its military capabilities are catching up with the US.

The DF-17, on the other hand, is capable of hypersonic speeds - over five times the speed of sound - and carrying a manoeuvrable glide vehicle that can shift targets in flight, which analysts say makes it better able to penetrate missile defence systems.

Analysts Antoine Bondaz and Stephane Delory from French think-tank, the Fondation pour la Recherche Stratégique, had said in a research note published before the parade that the display of the DF-17 would highlight "China's progress in designing hypersonic non-strategic gliders, a segment in which Russians and Americans are lagging behind".

President Xi, who also chairs the apex Central Military Commission, stood atop a Hongqi car that drove down Chang'an Avenue, inspecting the formations that would soon trundle past Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.

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Other military hardware that rolled past the stands filled with excited Chinese citizens and their leaders, diplomats and the media included the Type 99A main battle tank and supersonic UAV WZ-8.

China's latest aircraft, including its J-20 stealth fighter jets, also made an appearance in a fly-past.

Spectators watched the parade with the city under a veil of smog, unusual for the occasion as the government is known to clamp down on polluters ahead of important events.

The parade is the largest in China's recent history, featuring around 15,000 military personnel, 160 aircraft, 580 pieces of military hardware and equipment, and 59 formations in total.

The last military parade held at Tiananmen Square was in 2015 commemorating the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.

That featured more than 12,000 troops, over 200 aircraft in a fly-past, and 500 armoured vehicles.

Beijing has denied it is using the parade as an opportunity to flex its muscles.

Defence Ministry spokesman Wu Qian said at a briefing last month that China was committed to its military development.

"Over the past 70 years much has been accomplished in the modernisation of the Chinese military, we don't see the need to flex our muscles through this military parade," he said.

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