The weapon is the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) most powerful multiple launch rocket system (MLRS) ever, capable of firing eight 370mm rockets 350km or two 750mm ballistic missiles 500km. A leading American military magazine, ‘Modern Ships’, has made the claim after examining footage of the parade where the weapon passed by largely anonymously. A commentator for state broadcaster Chinese CCTV described it only as a “self-propelled rocket launcher with precision strike capability”.
But ‘Modern Weapons’ challenged that statement stressing the systems impressively destructive capabilities.
Whilst it remains unknown how many of these units China boasts, the unit paraded is thought to be stationed with the 72nd Group Army in Huzhou, Zhejiang province.
In an interview with CCTV in October, Wang Tanshen, a master sergeant with the 72nd Group, said the range of the new launch system was “seven times” that of the system it suceeded.
“The new generation MLRS has extended our firing range to cover everywhere we want to hit,” he said.
It’s thought in the event of a conflict the powerful weapons could be used to destroy strategic targets such as airports, command centres and supply bases.
The new PLA weapon system comes as France exposed US weaknesses to China in a huge blunder.
In 2015, the French Ministry of Defence published a report and then quickly pulled it back, hoping that the momentary publication hadn’t reached any Western rivals.
The South China Sea is hotly contested because of its lucrative shipping lanes, capacity for military strategic advantages and wealth of natural resources such as oil and minerals.
At the centre of this disagreement are various island clusters such as the Spratly Islands and the Paracel Islands. China has had particularly tense relations with Vietnam and the Philippines over islands in the region.
China’s Nine-Dash-Line draws a line around all of these islands, asserts sovereignty over all of them, and makes audacious claims about rights to waters within.
But this claim has left other countries furious, including Vietnam who have ramped up their defensive posturing in recent weeks.
A Chinese oil survey vessel – The Haiyang Dizhi 8 – only recently pulled away from Vietnam’s EEZ after 3 months of resource exploration.
Beijing tried to pressure Vietnam into halting its exploration of seas and resources in contested waters, but in July China sent fleets to the Vanguard Bank, an area that also lies in the Vietnam EEZ.
Occupying the Vanguard bank meant Chinese ships would no longer need to return to mainland China for refuelling and maintenance during journeys into the South China Sea, but the move has angered those in Hanoi.
However, the US has stepped in to help the Vietnamese who have previously been reluctant to cooperate with second countries due to their ‘Three Noes’ foreign policy – no alliances, no bases, and no working with a second country against a third.
Washington has agreed to give Vietnam a coastal patrol cutter in an effort to bolster Hanoi’s ability to thwart Chinese encroachment.