BEIJING — China showed off the growing sophistication of its defense industries Friday by featuring its newest attack helicopters and main battle tanks at a multinational live-firing military exercise in the country’s north.
State media said the new hardware performed to expectations in the “Peace Mission-2014” drill featuring more than 7,000 personnel from China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
The exercise at Zhurihe, China’s largest and most modern training base in the vast grasslands of Inner Mongolia, was the culmination of a week of joint training under a regional grouping known as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
The website of the Communist Party’s People’s Daily newspaper said the latest versions of the Type 99 main battle tank and the Z-10 and Z-19 attack helicopters were taking part for the first time in multinational exercises, in which actual ammunition was being used.
China’s air force earlier announced it had deployed a new type of armed drone in the exercises, and that it had carried out a successful missile attack on a command vehicle.
The drone, which wasn’t further identified, is capable of monitoring, identifying and destroying objects in real time, making it an important tool in fighting terrorists, air force spokesman Shen Jinke was quoted as saying.
Once heavily dependent on Russia for sophisticated weaponry, China has made huge advances in developing its own weapons systems, many of them variations of foreign models. The Z-10 and Z-19 are based on the French Eurocopter AS365 Dauphin, while the earliest version of the Type 99 was a variant of the former Soviet T-72.
In a similar way, China’s sole aircraft carrier was constructed from a gutted hull purchased from Ukraine and towed to China, where it underwent a decade-long refitting. Many of China’s drones also bear an uncanny resemblance to the Predator, Global Hawk and Reaper models used by the U.S. Air Force and the CIA.
Years of double-digit annual percentage increases in defense spending enabled by the explosive growth of the Chinese economy have given the People’s Liberation Army the ability to purchase and integrate the new systems.