Business Insider Edition

China's been showing off a lot of new powerful weapons, and experts think they're sending a message

Ryan Pickrell , Business Insider US
 Feb 02, 2019, 08:05 PM
Chinese commandos pass quickly through poisonous area during a seven-day extreme military exercises at Xiuwen County on March 22, 2018 in Guiyang, Guizhou Province of China.
He Junyi/China News Service/VCG via Getty Images

  • 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 its local military developments this past month, leading some observers to suspect that China is trying to send a message to its rivals and citizens at a time of heightened tensions with the US.

China is currently "on the verge of fielding some of the most modern weapon systems in the world," a new US defense intelligence assessment warned in mid-January. Chinese media seems determined to let the world, especially the US, know it developing powerful new weapons.

The Chinese military is reportedly working on everything from railguns to 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 claimed earlier last month that Chinese warships will "soon" be equipped with naval railguns capable of 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 CCTV. Chinese media asserted that "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 to 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," explained Bryan Clark, a naval affairs expert.

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 defense 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 reportedly China's largest non-nuclear bomb, the Global Times explained, 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 which 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-based 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 argue that 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 claimed 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-based military expert, the nationalist Global Times explained that China was developing "super" soldiers who will be able to take on 10 enemy combatants at one time.

CCTV reportedly claimed these weapons highlight the People's Liberation Army's modernization. The Chinese military is undergoing a massive overhaul, the aim being the creation of 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 reportedly in the works includes the CH-7, which was also on display at the event in Zhuhai.

Chinese military experts admitted that 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 claimed that 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 argued, 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 claimed that 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.

Read More: China claims its advanced J-16 strike fighter just went stealth with nothing more than a new paint job


7. Underground bunkers and ICBM strikes

GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty Images

Chinese troops have reportedly been conducting simulated 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 signaling China's modernizing 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," Adam 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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