The Indian defence community will join the world to closely watch the weaponry that China is expected to unveil at the National Day military parade on October 1 to mark 70 years of the republic under the Communist Party of China (CPC) rule. Reports say that the parade that will see the flypast of 160 warplanes may showcase for the first time several weapon systems that can challenge the global balance of power.
The weaponry on the show may include the world's most powerful missile, drones that fly at hypersonic speed (more than five times the speed of sound) and unmanned aerial and aquatic vehicles that can loiter until the preset target becomes visible before a kill.
About 15,000 personnel, more than 160 aircraft and 580 weapons systems will be part of the 80-minute procession through Chinese capital Beijing, according to a report on the CNN website. The likely advancement in Chinese drone technology will be keenly watched by the world, especially the US and China's neighbours with whom Beijing has friction over territory.
A Chinese official has stated that all the weapons that would be on show on October 1 have already been inducted into service. Major General Tan Min, executive deputy director of the Military Parade Joint Command Office and deputy chief of staff of the Central Theater Command of the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA), told a press briefing that the weapons would showcase the country's ability to innovate in defence research and development.
The weapon systems that have provoked global interest in general and Indian interest, in particular, are the following:
China's National Day military parade will be held in Beijing next week, marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. Watch the female soldiers during their parade step practice. #China70Years pic.twitter.com/SpJ0e5tNP0— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) September 28, 2019
JL-2 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM):
Deployed on Chinese Jin-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine fleet, single-warhead missile JL-2 is said to be highly accurate and easy to maintain. The People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) already has four such submarines in service, with two more under construction. Each sub can carry 12 JL-2 missiles with an estimated range of 7,200km. The whole of India and the US territory of Alaska are within the reach of the missile from Chinese coastal waters.
Hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) DL-17:
DL-17 that can carry both conventional and nuclear warheads travels at five times the speed of sound and is first launched by a rocket, which releases it at the desired height. The HGV then glides to the target at 6,115 km per hour or above. The HGVs ability to fly low and fast makes it a deadly weapon, according to the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance. It is highly manoeuvrable to dodge enemy radars and air defences. China is said to be ahead of the US and Russia in HGV technology.
Some defence experts say China has secretly upgraded its core long-range H-6 bomber warplanes and they are waiting for videos of the aircraft to ascertain the kind of enhancements made. Some social media photographs suggest new hard-points allowing for increased capacity to carry larger missiles. The addition could be DF-21 anti-ship ballistic missile, particularly useful in the South China Sea where the presence of US warships has nettled Beijing.
This drone incorporating stealth technology that can help it dodge enemy radars and air defence systems could be of particular worry for India as it can travel at hypersonic speeds. This means that even if the drone is detected well in time, the missile defences may fail to catch it because of its high speed. The drone that can fly at five times the speed of sound is tasked with the job of getting close to foreign aircraft carriers and guiding missile launchers to the target, the report said.
'Sharp Sword' drone:
Images have emerged of what is speculated to be Sharp Sword, a bat wing-shaped drone designed for use from aircraft carriers. The drone is said to have two internal bomb bays and its stealthy design can beat air defences of carrier groups. First tested in 2013, the Sharp Sword's appearance in the parade could signal its deployment.
This underwater unmanned vehicle has been spotted during parade rehearsals. Covered by tarps it appeared like a torpedo resting on a flatbed truck, but experts are convinced it must be a submarine drone. The defence circles are yet unsure of its purpose.
Social media have been circulating images of the heavy Type 99 (T-99) main battle tanks and Type 15 (T-15) light tanks spotted at the parade rehearsals. Some reports suggest the parade will mark the unveiling of T-15 light tanks. India will have much to worry with this deadly tank that can be used for mountain warfare.
Though the parade hype has focused on DF-41 intercontinental-range ballistic missile (ICBM), which is rated as the world's most powerful with a whopping range of 15,000km, India may not be overly worried about the missile. But, the US would need to rethink its missile defences. The missile will become the mainstay of the People's Liberation Army Rocket Forces (PLARF). Eagerly awaited since the 2015 parade, the missile is expected to be unveiled this year. Some reports suggest spotting this missile during the parades. More than the range, the technology that the missile uses should be of worry for the Indian Strategic Forces Command. A single missile can reportedly carry up to 10 nuclear warheads as it uses the multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicle (MIRV) technology. It can hit any part of the mainland US in 30 minutes once launched from Mainland China, according to reports. It can be launched from silos or road- or rail-mobile units. The missile is also believed to be another technological landmark for the Chinese as it uses solid fuel, instead of the less portable liquid fuel that earlier versions of Chinese ICBMs used.
The Indian authorities will be closely monitoring the systems on the show especially at a time when the country is in the midst of a massive $130-billion modernization of the Indian Navy, Indian Army and the Indian Air Force (I|AF) to raise its capability for a two-front war. The rise in hostilities along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir with Pakistan and scuffles with Chinese troops along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh have made the readiness for simultaneously engaging two hostile forces imperative.
The situation in Jammu and Kashmir is particularly inflammable after Prime Minister Narendra Modi abrogated Article 370 to remove the special status of the state and created two union territories out of it. Both Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and Chinese President Xi Jinping have reacted strongly to the change of status of Kashmir. India and Pakistan clashed at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) last week over the Kashmir developments.