About 15,000 personnel, more than 160 aircraft and 580 pieces of weaponry and equipment will be part of the 80-minute procession through the Chinese capital, which will highlight the country’s military advances in the 70 years since the founding of the People’s Republic of China.
Maj. Gen. Tan Min, executive deputy director of the Military Parade Joint Command Office and deputy chief of staff of the Central Theater Command of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), said at a press briefing this week that all weapons to be on display were in service and made in China, highlighting the country’s ability to innovate in defense research and development.
Here are some of the key items to look out for Tuesday.
Much of the parade hype has focused on this powerful intercontinental-range ballistic missile, thought to be the mainstay of the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Forces (PLARF) arsenal for years to come — and, by some estimations, the most powerful missile on the planet.
Under development since 1997, the DF-41 was rumored to appear in parades in 2015 and 2017, but instead was kept under wraps.
Rumors that it will get a showing this around were sent into overdrive following reports in China’s state media that the missile was spotted during parade rehearsals in Beijing earlier this month.
Mobile-launched DF-41s can be carried by trucks and trains. Satellite photos taken earlier this year showed DF-41 mobile launchers in the PLARF Jilintal training area in Inner Mongolia, according to the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), which monitors world nuclear arms developments.
Those satellite photos also show what “strongly resembles” a silo, according to Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the FAS, who analyzed the images.
The backbone of the United States nuclear arsenal, the Minuteman III missile, is a solid-fueled, silo-based weapon. However, it carries only one warhead, as its original three-warhead design was limited by nuclear treaties with Russia.
China may be ready to deploy the DF-41 in numbers. At least 18 of them appeared to be at the Inner Mongolia training ground in satellite photos earlier this year.
Though capable of carrying 10 warheads, it is likely only three would be on each missile, with the rest being dummy or decoy warheads, according to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (BAS).
JL-2 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM)
This is the main weapon aboard China’s Jin-class fleet of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines. Four of the subs are in service, with two more under construction.
That range puts targets from India to Alaska in range from coastal Chinese waters, the BAS report says. But for it to threaten the continental US, for instance, the subs would have to get past formidable US anti-submarine choke-points around Japan and deep into the Pacific.
Still, the Chinese SLBM force falls short of the US. The US Navy’s Ohio-class ballistic submarine fleet numbers 14, with each of those subs capable of carrying 20 Trident missiles. Each of those missiles can carry up to 10 warheads.
This is an example of a hypersonic glide vehicle, or HGV. It is launched via a standard missile rocket — but after reaching the desired altitude, the booster rocket is jettisoned and the HGV carries the missile payload to target.
The US is also not expected to have a an HGV with nuclear capability, the CRS says. “As a result, US hypersonic weapons will likely require greater accuracy and will be more technically challenging to develop than nuclear-armed Chinese and Russian systems,” the report adds.
The H-6 has been Beijing’s core long-range bomber for years, but images taken during flyover rehearsals for Tuesday’s parade show what could be a significant upgrade.
Photos posted on social media sites in China — which have been popping up on Western sites — show what appear to be points to mount large missiles.
The ability to carry the DF-21 would give the bomber “an impressive stand-off capability against large enemy warships, especially aircraft carriers,” Trevethick said.
Combined, the two developments mean US aircraft carriers would need to stay further out to sea during conflict and their aircraft, predominantly F/A-18 jets, would have more difficulty reaching targets.
This stealthy drone is drawing lots of attention leading up to the parade, much of that due to its sleek shape and supersonic speed.
The D-21 would self-destruct after dropping its high-resolution camera payload into friendly hands. The program was canceled in 1971 after four of the aircraft were lost in missions over … China.
Sharp Sword drone
China military watchers have been tweeting images of what they speculate is the Sharp Sword, a bat wing-shaped drone designed for use from aircraft carriers.
“What makes Sharp Sword different … is that it is stealthy, which means it is built not for Afghanistan-type scenarios, where the enemy is equipped with little more than rifles, but for situations where it might have to evade sophisticated air defenses,” Roggeven says.
The Sharp Sword was first tested in 2013, and an appearance in the October 1 parade could signal that it’s close to deployment.
Other countries, including the US, have been developing drones to use off carriers. The US Navy’s MQ-25 Stingray has just started flight tests with an eye to deployment in 2024 as an aerial tanker.
Images have appeared online of what looks like a large torpedo on the flat bed of a truck.
Images have surfaced of Type 99 main battle tanks and Type 15 light tanks during parade rehearsals.
It also noted a change in the Type 99s, desert camouflage, which was “delighting enthusiasts who recalled the jungle look of previous parades.”
There was no indication as to why the camouflage scheme was changed, but it prompted speculation about whether China sees a new mission for its ground forces.
CNN’s Steven Jiang and Maisy Mok contributed to this report.
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