* Foreign observers watching to assess military hardware
* Missiles to include nuclear-capable and conventional
* Smaller, solid-fuel missiles due to be displayed
By Lucy Hornby
BEIJING, Sept 27 (Reuters) - Upgraded missiles will feature prominently in China’s Oct 1 military parade which celebrates 60 years of Communist Party rule, the Xinhua news agency said, citing a commander of the service that controls nuclear weapons.
The parade of goose-stepping soldiers, well-rehearsed school children and flowery floats will illustrate the nation’s priorities of modernisation and military strength [ID:nSP373399].
Foreign observers will be watching to see what weapons the People’s Liberation Army shows off.
The 108 missiles on display will include two types of surface-to-surface conventional missiles, a land-based cruise missile, surface-to-surface intermediate and long-range missiles that can be equipped with either nuclear or conventional warheads, and nuclear-capable intercontinental missiles, said Yu Jixun, deputy Commander of the PLA’s Second Artillery Force.
"All five types of missiles are solid-fuelled, with smaller bodies... In the past, missiles were mostly liquid-fuelled and their bodies were huge," Yu said.
Solid-fuel missiles are easier to transport, providing more strategic flexibility in deployment.
The Second Artillery Force, which controls the nuclear arsenal, is expanding its mandate to include conventional missiles under the nation’s military blueprint.
This year, as part of the emphasis on modernisation, fewer tanks will roll down Beijing’s main boulevard in order to give pride of place to the military’s advanced equipment, General Gao Jianguo, spokesman for the National Day Military Parade Joint Command, told Reuters.
Squadrons of fighter and bomber planes in formation will fly down Beijing’s central axis, accompanied by helicopters, while tanks roll along down the street.
Xinhua earlier this month hinted that the parade could display the Julang-2, or JL-2, a submarine-mounted missile with a range of 8,000 km that was first tested in 2001, and the CSS-X-10, a solid fuel intercontinental ballistic missile.
American naval strategists are concerned that China may have developed an anti-ship ballistic missile, a Dongfeng 21-D, that could force U.S. aircraft carriers to keep their distance in the event of an attack on self-ruled Taiwan, which China considers a breakaway province [ID:nPEK142891].
It will still be a few years before China has the satellites and other systems needed to successfully track and attack a ship at sea, military analysts said. (Editing by Charles Dick)