MELBOURNE, Australia — China has showcased new types of missiles and unmanned platforms for the first time at a military parade in its capital on Oct. 1 to mark the 70th anniversary of its founding.
The unmanned technologies included a large unmanned underwater vehicle, along with a high-speed unmanned aircraft believed to be capable of supersonic flight.
However, it was the missiles that took center stage — unsurprisingly given that the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force, or PLARF, will be a central player in any future conflict involving China.
As previously reported by Defense News, the road-mobile DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missile and the JL-2 submarine-launched ballistic missile each made their debut at the parade in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, representing the survivability of China’s nuclear deterrence.
China’s state-run news agency Xinhua said the 16 DF-41 transporter-erector-launchers at the parade came from two PLARF brigades, while the 12 JL-2 truck-mounted canisters at the parade represented the striking power of each of China’s projected force of six Jin-class ballistic missile submarines.
The biggest surprise at the parade was the appearance of the DF-17 hypersonic glide vehicle, or HGV. The DF-17 consists of a standard ballistic missile booster for its first stage. The second stage is a low-flying projectile used to attack a target following the first stage’s ballistic reentry.
Reports citing U.S. government sources have said China has carried out several tests of HGVs, including the DF-17, since 2014. The DF-17 is the first system of its type known to be operational in the world, although several other nations including the U.S. are developing similar systems.
Also making their respective debuts at the parade were a pair of Chinese unmanned aircraft systems. The first of these was the Sharp Sword low-observable combat UAV. The example displayed at the parade featured a new stealthy engine intake and engine nozzles, in contrast to earlier photos showing a more conventional and less stealthy equivalents.
The other drone making its debut is believed to be a high-speed platform. Believed to be capable of attaining supersonic flight, the type, which has been referred to as the WZ-8, reportedly made its first flight in 2015 and is suspected in some quarters to be capable of launching from another aircraft such as the Xi’an H-6N bomber.
Photos from the parade confirm that this UAS is powered by a pair of rockets instead of an air-breathing engine, and suggests that speed is the priority for the design, possibly for reconnaissance missions or for attacking a high-value target.
The parade also saw the debut of the HSU001 large unmanned underwater vehicle, with two systems mounted on trailers. Each vehicle is powered by two propellers and appear to be able to mount a variety of payloads including mast-mounted optics, although little else is known.
Mike Yeo is the Asia correspondent for Defense News.