New Weapons, New Approaches
Henry Boyd, Meia Nouwens
China's 2019 national day parade placed the military within a broader context, highlighting the importance of leveraging both military and civilian talent to progress toward becoming a military that can fight and win wars.
The DF-41 ICBM is believed to be in the process of entering service with new brigades formed in the wake of a major reorganization of the PLA in 2017.
The DF-17 is the first hypersonic glide vehicle system to be publicly displayed by any major military. While the systems shown at the parade might be models as opposed to the actual missiles, the DF-17 can now reasonably be assumed to be approaching operational service.
The stealth drone on display is a tailless flying wing, broadly comparable to the US X-47B demonstrator. It may be an operational UCAV intended for combat operations in contested airspace and appears to have the PLA designation GJ-11.
New equipment is only part of the challenge facing a modernizing PLA. New concepts of war-fighting will be more difficult. New weapons involve changes to personnel, training, and professionalization. The PLA of a new era leverages both military and civilian talent to progress toward becoming a military that can fight and win wars.
The parade included a nod to PLA progress toward an information-based war-fighting capability by including an information battle group. The parade also included scientists from the National Defense University, University of Defense Technology, and Academy of Military Sciences.
From a political standpoint, the 2019 parade clearly stood out from past anniversary celebrations because it placed the military within a broader context. The parade was led by three flagbearers:
★ For the Party
★ For the Nation
★ For the PLA
The PLA is seen as central to achieving the China Dream of national rejuvenation.