China has displayed a host of its latest tactical weapons, including a new intelligence radar, anti-ship missile as well as an unmanned missile boat, at an air show this week in Zhuhai city as it flexed muscles in the disputed South China Sea leading to tension with other nations located on its rim.
The exported versions of the 609-intelligence radar and CM 401 anti-ship missile, which are serving in the People's Liberation Army (PLA) in border and coast defence, are on display for the first time at the air show, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported on Thursday.
State-run Global Times reported that a Chinese firm has also unveiled its unmanned boat with reconnaissance and attack capabilities, which is the first of its kind in China.
The 609-intelligence radar is able to detect long-range early warning of stealth aircraft such as the US F-35, tactical ballistic missiles, and targets close to space, according to its developer, the 14th Institute of the China Electronic Technology Group Corporation (CETC).
Hong Kong-based military expert Song Zhongping said that the 609 radar was an important part of China's comprehensive anti-stealth and anti-ballistic missile systems, which could be integrated into the PLA's air and sea combat systems to form a powerful air-to-air and air-to-sea defence network.
"The CM-401 system is an anti-ship ballistic missile modified from a tactical missile defence system," Song, a military commentator for Hong Kong's Phoenix Television, told the Post.
"It is able to destroy fixed targets on land or moving targets on sea, including medium-to-large warships."
The two weapons systems need to operate with the support of many other types of multifunctional radar systems with different altitude and range capabilities, he added.
"The PLA is using advanced versions of the 609 radar and CM-401 systems, and most of them were deployed to northeast Asia and the East China Sea, where China is facing threats of nuclear weapons and stealth aircraft," Song said.
Guangdong-based Yunzhou Tech, also known as Oceanalpha, developed the missile boat Look Out II.
Loaded with four precision missiles that can hit targets 5 kms away, the vessel is also equipped with a radar and electro-optical system enabling it to carry out reconnaissance missions, Global Times reported.
The Chinese naval drone, 7.5 metres long and 2.7 metres wide, has a displacement of 3.7 tonnes and can sail at 45 knots at its full speed, it said.
Su Zhen, Look Out II project director, told the Global Times at the show on Wednesday that although the vessel was relatively small and its missile could not reach very far, it was fast and stealthy, enabling it to get nearer its target and launch close-quarters strikes.
"It is not the Look Out II's goal to sink an enemy vessel on its own," Su said.
"As long as we damage the enemy ship's key structure like the command centre, armoury or engine room, it is enough for us to get the upper hand so that we can follow up," he told daily.
Su said that an unmanned surface vessel is significantly cost-efficient compared to a traditional naval ship. Because it is unmanned, no operator casualty will occur, Su added.
Su said that while the boat can automatically sail the sea and choose optimal routes with artificial intelligence (AI), the use of weapons is still done manually through remote control.
China claims sovereignty over all of South China Sea. Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Taiwan have counter claims.
China is engaged in hotly contested territorial disputes in both the South China Sea and the East China Sea. Beijing has built up and militarised many of the islands and reefs it controls in the region.
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