- Chinese media has been showing off a lot of Chinese weapons systems, running out report after report over the past month.
- Some analysts speculated that China was trying to send a warning about its growing power.
China ran report after report on Chinese military developments this past month, leading some observers to suspect that the country is trying to send a message to its rivals and citizens at a time of heightened tensions with the US.
China is “on the verge of fielding some of the most modern weapon systems in the world,” a new US defence intelligence assessment said in mid-January. The Chinese media seems determined to let the world, especially the US, know it’s developing powerful new weapons.
The Chinese military is reportedly working on everything from railguns and knife guns to “carrier killer” anti-ship missiles. Here are seven of the weapons China’s been showing off.
1. Electromagnetic railgun
Photos of an old tank-landing ship carrying a railgun prototype surfaced online last year, and Chinese state media said earlier last month that Chinese warships will “soon” be equipped with naval railguns capable of hitting targets at great distances.
“Chinese warships will ‘soon’ be equipped with world-leading electromagnetic railguns, as breakthroughs have been made,” China’s Global Times reported, citing state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV). Chinese media said “China’s naval electromagnetic weapon and equipment have surpassed other countries and become a world leader.”
While it appears that China is making progress, railguns are militarily useless compared with existing alternatives, experts have told Business Insider.
“This is a part of China’s strategic communication plan to show that it is a rising power with next-generation military capabilities,” Bryan Clark, a naval-affairs expert, said.
China has suggested that the technology could be used to develop electromagnetic catapults for China’s future aircraft carriers.
2. China’s version of the ‘Mother of All Bombs’
China North Industries Group Corporation Limited, a major Chinese defence-industry corporation, has, according to Chinese media, developed a massive conventional weapon for China’s bombers known as the “Chinese version of the ‘Mother of All Bombs.'”
The weapon is China’s largest nonnuclear bomb, the Global Times said, citing the state-run Xinhua News Agency.
Although China is using the same nickname for its bomb, the Chinese weapon is smaller and lighter than its American counterpart, a 21,600-pound bomb that the US dropped on Islamic State targets in Afghanistan in 2017.
The weapon would likely be carried by the Chinese Xi’an H-6K bombers. The American version is so large that it has to be carried by a C-130.
3. ‘Carrier-killer’ missiles
The DF-26 ballistic missile is not a new weapon, but China recently released, for the first time, video footage of a recent exercise involving the weapon, which is reportedly able to carry conventional and nuclear warheads for strikes against land and sea targets.
The DF-26 is commonly referred to as a “carrier killer.” The video revealed certain features suggesting the missile is a capable anti-ship weapon with the ability to take out a US aircraft carrier. These missiles are also known as “Guam-killer” missiles because they are believed to be capable of ranging US military installations in the Pacific.
Analysts said China released the video of its DF-26 ballistic missiles to send a message to the US.
The exercise sent “a clear message to the US about China’s growing missile capability, and that it can hold at risk US strategic assets, such as carriers and bases,” Adam Ni, a researcher at Macquarie University in Sydney, told the South China Morning Post.
4. Super-soldiers armed with guns that shoot around corners
Chinese state media said last month that the Chinese military is arming its special forces with “sci-fi” weapons – “futuristic individual combat weapons like grenade-launching assault rifles, corner shot pistols and knife guns.”
Citing a Beijing military expert, the Global Times said China was developing “super” soldiers who will be able to take on 10 enemy combatants at one time.
CCTV said these weapons highlight the People’s Liberation Army’s modernisation, according to Chinese state media. The Chinese military is undergoing a massive overhaul with the goal of creating a world-class fighting force.
5. Stealth drones
CCTV aired a video showcasing China’s stealth drone “Sky Hawk” taking flight for the first time earlier last month.
The drone, which made an appearance at Airshow China 2018 in Zhuhai last November, was shown taking off and landing at an undisclosed location, the Global Times reported. Experts suggested that the unmanned aircraft could be launched from China’s future aircraft carriers.
Another Chinese stealth drone in the works, according to Chinese media, includes the CH-7, which was also on display at the event in Zhuhai.
Chinese military experts said the US maintains an edge in this area, having developed the X-47B carrier-based drone, but both China and Russia are both rushing to develop stealth drones for future missions.
6. Upgraded stealth fighter
China is considering the development of a twin-seat variant of the J-20 stealth fighter, which would be a first for fifth-generation aircraft, the Global Times reported last month, citing CCTV.
Chinese media said the aircraft would be capable of tactical bombing missions or electronic warfare, not just air superiority.
Having aircraft variations “that other countries do not possess will greatly expand the Chinese military’s capability in an asymmetric warfare,” the Global Times said, citing Chinese analysts.
China has also, according to Chinese media, been looking at the possibility of creating a twin-seat variant of the carrier-based J-15s to expand the combat capability of the fighters, which are considered problematic and are expected to eventually be replaced.
In a related report, China’s Global Times said the advanced J-16 strike fighters now possess “near stealth capability” thanks to a new paint job. Detection may be more of a challenge, but it is unlikely the aircraft could be considered stealthy.
7. Underground bunkers and intercontinental-ballistic-missile strikes
Chinese troops have reportedly been conducting simulated intercontinental-ballistic-missile (ICBM) strike exercises from underground bunkers, the Global Times reported last month, citing CCTV.
The nuclear-attack exercises, which are aimed at simulated enemies, are designed to improve China’s counterattack (second-strike) capability in the event a war breaks out, Chinese media explained. The strategic bunkers where the drills were staged are referred to as China’s “underground Great Wall” by Qian Qihu, the man who designed them.
The drill was “about signalling China’s modernising nuclear deterrence. It is about telling the Americans and others that China has a credible second-strike capability and that it is determined to use it if it comes under nuclear attack,” Ni told the South China Morning Post, adding that he believes it is “in part a message from Beijing to the US about the ultimate perils of escalation.”
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