Oct. 1 promises to be a big day for the Chinese Communist Party featuring a National Day military parade where a supersonic spy drone among other new weaponry will be showcased. The drone was seen for the first time during a rehearsal for the parade this past weekend when some pictures began to circulate on social media.

The celebration marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. “National Day” is followed by one of the two “golden weeks” during the year and can last seven or eight days. The military parade in Beijing was held every year between 1949 and 1960 but since then it has been held only in 1984 to mark the 35th anniversary and in 1999 and 2009 to mark the 50th and 60th-year anniversaries.

The photos show two types of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) that have been identified as the DR-8 or Wuzhen 8, and the Sharp Sword stealth attack drone. The DR-8 figures to play a prominent role in any conflict involving the United States in the South China Sea or Western Pacific.

The DR-8 has a similar appearance to a U.S. made UAV that was used more than 40 years ago and has since been retired. The D-21 was used for spying missions and some of them crashed in China. One of the crashed D-21s was put on display at Beijing’s Military Museum a few years ago. China was obviously able to use the scattered remnants to engineer the design of the DR-8.

Zhou Chenming, a Beijing-based military commentator, claims that the DR-8 can exceed Mach 3.3 (about 2,500 km/hour or 4,000 miles/hour), which is the maximum speed of the D-21. This would give it the ability to infiltrate enemy air defenses and return unharmed carrying any gathered intelligence. It could help assess damage to the enemy by China’s DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile and the DF-26 ballistic missile.

Another Shanghai-based military commentator, Shi Lao, said, “In fact, this UAV [the DR-8] entered into service a while ago.” He was referring to the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) use of the drone in locations as far away as Guam.

Other weaponry likely to be displayed in the parade include:

  • The Sharp Sword, an attack drone that can carry several missiles or laser-guided bombs.
  • The hypersonic DF-17 missile, which can deliver a maneuverable re-entry vehicle capable of shifting targets in flight.
  • The DF-41, a solid-fuel, road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile that can carry up to 10 nuclear warheads.
  • A new strategic bomber, the H-6N that features an aerial refueling receptacle.
  • A previously undisclosed lightweight battle tank, the Type 15, was also spotted during the parade rehearsals.

Chenming was not understating the parade when he commented, “There will be some exciting new weaponry on show at the parade this year.”

China will mark 70 years of Communist rule next week, with a massive military parade in Beijing
China will mark 70 years of Communist rule next week, with a massive military parade in Beijing AFP / GREG BAKER