Hong Kong protesters hit the streets as China marks 70 years of Communist rule
One highlight of the parade is the first public appearance of the the DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missile, says military analyst Tong Zhao.
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.
It is carried by a transporter erector launcher (TEL) so that makes this missile highly mobile and increases its survivability and operational flexibility.
"It is believed to have a big payload capacity which means it can deliver very heavy payload to very long distances. So most likely this missile will be armed with more than 1 warhead, but we don’t know how many it can accommodate. Some say it can accommodate as much as 10, but we don’t know. That would make it very powerful," says Tong.
The Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies says the DF-41 will have a range of up to 9,320 miles (15,000 kilometers), more than any missile on Earth, and will be capable of carrying 10 independently targeted nuclear warheads. From launch in China, it could theoretically hit the continental United States in 30 minutes, the Missile Defense Project says.
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.
Kristensen wrote the possible missile silos appeared to bear more of a resemblance to Russian ICBM versions than existing silos for older, liquid-fueled Chinese ICBMs. The DF-41 is solid-fueled, like the Russian missiles. Solid-fueled missiles are easier to deploy and quicker to launch than liquid versions.
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).
Part of that has to do with warhead availability. China's nuclear warhead inventory is estimated at 290 for use on ballistic missiles and bomber aircraft, the Bulletin said in its 2019 report on Beijing's nuclear forces.
This stealthy DR-8 drone drew lots of attention leading up to the parade, much of that due to its sleek shape and supersonic speed.
While the drones were not labelled or announced by state TV, analysts have been predicting what will be shown for weeks, and military experts will be watching closely.
Thought to be able to fly up to five times the speed of sound, the main mission of the DR-8 could be to get close to foreign aircraft carriers during conflict and send targeting information back to missile launchers, reports say.
Some analysts note that satellite images of what is believed to be the DR-8, as well as tarp-covered objects seen in parade rehearsals, resemble the US military's D-21 supersonic reconnaissance drone, which was introduced in the 1960s.
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.
Another drone expected to be displayed the Sharp Sword drone. The drone is thought to have two internal bomb bays and its stealthy design indicates it's built for a new type of drone warfare, says analyst Sam Roggeveen, writing on the Lowy Institute's Interpreter blog.
"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 United States, 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.
The main weapon aboard China's Jin-class fleet of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines, the JL-2 submarine missiles are parading down Chang'an Avenue. Four of the subs are in service, with two more under construction.
Each sub can carry 12 of the single-warhead JL-2 missiles. With an estimated range of 4,473 miles (7,200 kilometers), it is regarded as more of a regional than global weapon.
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.
A longer-range SLBM, the JL-3, was reportedly tested in late 2018 and again in June this year, according to Jane's Defence Weekly, but that missile remains in development and it would be a surprise to see it on October 1.
Still, the Chinese SLBM force falls short of the United States. 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.
Along with traditional air drones, China has also paraded its underwater vehicles. The state-sanctioned Global Times noted its appearance in rehearsals, adding: "More mysterious was an image of a large autonomous underwater vehicle. Its mission remains unknown."
This could be one of China's first undersea drones. A 2015 report from the Rand Corp. think tank said the Beijing government, relying mainly on military funding, had set up at least 15 research teams at universities and institutes to develop technology for unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs).
Speaking on the live broadcast, a state TV commentator said the underwater drone could "dive deep under the sea" to carry out surveillance and military missiles.
Military vehicles and tanks are being rolled down Chang'an Avenue in Beijing now.
The day kicked off earlier with a speech by Chinese President Xi Jinping, then a show of discipline and order from marching troops.
Now, lines of tank formations are rolling down the avenue in perfect straight lines.
There is speculation that there will be new, never before seen weaponry revealed today.
Today's military parade in Beijing is full of military might -- and it has the height requirements to match.
Marchers in the parade have been selected according to certain requirements, with male soldiers between 1.75 and 1.85 meters (5.8 to 6 feet) and female troops 1.63 to 1.75 meters (5.4 to 5.8 feet).
The age range of soldiers taking part is broad, from privates in their 20s to senior commanders who are over 60, according to Chinese state media Xinhua.
A large number of tanks are parading down Chang'an Avenue, ahead of other heavy weaponry, including what is expected to be some never-before-seen machines.
Images have surfaced of Type 99 main battle tanks and Type 15 light tanks during parade rehearsals.
A story on the PLA's English website notes the parade would mark the public debut of the Type 15.
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.
China is flexing its military might with the parade right now -- reminding viewers that it has the world's largest standing army and world's third largest air force.
Since 2014, China has launched more submarines, warships, principal amphibious vessels and auxiliaries than the total number of ships currently serving in the navies of Germany, India, Spain, Taiwan and the United Kingdom, according to a 2018 report by think tank IISS.
The parade will involve around 15,000 personnel, according to state-run news agency Xinhua. It also features more than 160 aircraft and 580 pieces of equipment, alongside 59 formations and a military band
Viewers worldwide are also keeping an eye out for new weaponry that may be revealed. Experts have speculated that these weapons may make an appearance:
- DF-41 missile
- JL-2 submarine-launched ballistic missile
- H-6N bomber
- DR-8 drone
- Sharp Sword drone
Read here for more on the weapons, which may also include drone submarines and tanks.
Every time Chinese state TV coverage cuts to the Tiananmen rostrum, from where the country's current and former top officials are watching the parade coverage alongside President Xi Jinping, it serves to emphasize just how homogenous recent generations of Chinese leadership have been.
Very few women are visible on the rostrum, because there are very few women at senior ranks within the Communist Party. The People's Republic of China has never had a female president, nor have any women served on the Standing Committee, where all key decisions about running the country are made, since the party came to power in 1949.
The next rung down -- the 25-member Politburo -- previously had only two female members. Since 2017, however, it has only had one, Sun Chunlan.
While Hong Kong is led by a woman, Carrie Lam, who is in Beijing for the celebrations, she was nowhere in sight, as her rank is far lower than those on the rostrum. Her male predecessor, CY Leung, is up there, however, as he is now vice-chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.