In celebration parade, Chinese army offers glimpse of changes

Updated: 2009-10-01 12:48

Chinese army presented the nation and the world its latest armaments and establishments at the heart of Beijing Thursday morning in a grand military parade marking the 60th founding anniversary of the People's Republic of China (PRC).

Military personnel and equipment of the Army, Navy, Air Force and the Second Artillery Corps (SAC), or strategic missile corps, which make up of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), joined the parade on Tian'anmen Square.

Dressed in the PLA's 2007 Style Uniforms, most of the parading personnel in 56 phalanxes belong to generations born in the 1980s and 1990s, symbolizing the country's 56 ethnic groups marching along the road of socialism with Chinese characteristics.

The one-hour great show televised live worldwide gave the world a chance to watch the ongoing transformation of the PLA from a labor-intensive force to technology-intensive might capable of joint operations in modern warfare.

"As a grand ceremony for the nation, the military parade demonstrates not only the changes in military armaments," said Jiang Tingyu, a military historian and a research fellow at the Chinese Military History Museum, "but the evolution of our country's overall national strength."

Changes were omnipresent for the past 60 years as the armaments displayed in the country's first parade in 1949 were mainly seized during wars before the nation's founding. Those equipment included Japan's 75 mm Field Gun, the US-made 105 mm howitzer, the EBRC armored vehicle and Britain's Mosquito bomber.

The 1984 parade presented 28 domestically made categories of weaponry.

To optimize its force structure, China had carried out several rounds of disarmament since 1949.

After the latest disarmament in 2005, the PLA now has 2.3 million servicemen to protect a nation of about 1.3 billion people, greatly down from the peak of 6 million shortly after the nation's founding.

Some military ranks, such as cavalry, railway unit and division bugler, were replaced by new units like army aviation, marine corps, special armed police corps and reserve duty.

Compared with the military parade a decade ago, the parade this year further demonstrated China's advancement in its armed forces, with fewer troops but more equipment, including some debuting high-tech weaponry and special force units.

All 52 types of new weapon systems staged on the parade this year were manufactured by China itself, including latest-generation main battle tank (MBT), airborne early warning and control (AEWC) aircraft, electronic countermeasure, mobile radar, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and satellite communication devices.

Among the most watched armaments in the parade were five phalanxes formed by different types of missiles.

"The strategic missiles on show this year reflect the great leap and breakthrough of the SAC's striking methods and capabilities," said Yu Jixun, SAC's deputy commander and the parade's deputy commander-in-chief.

"They also demonstrate our developing abilities for strategic deterrence and precision strikes."

The strategic missiles shown in the parade was the PLA service's largest ever exhibition to the public in terms of its scale, quantity and models.

The overland cruise missiles and new medium and long-range missiles also made their debut in the parade.

"Three of the five missile phalanxes are the newest series whose capabilities have been greatly enhanced, compared with those missiles shown 10 years ago," said SAC Senior Colonel Wang Liping.

The air echelons, consisting of 151 aircraft like AEWC aircraft, J-11 fighters, J-10 fighter jets, bombers, aerial tankers, fighter-bombers, helicopters and training planes, flew over Tian'anmen Square this year, up from 132 aircraft in 1999.

In the 1999 parade, Russian-made Su-27 fighter was China's only third-generation warplane but home-made third-generation fighter jets J-10 and J-11 thundered the skies this year after being in service in PLA air force.

China's military now possesses most of the sophisticated weapon systems found in the arsenals of developed Western nations, General Liang Guanglie, minister of defense, told Xinhua in an interview two weeks before the parade.

"Many of China's weapon systems match or are close to matching the capabilities of those in the West," he said.

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