The multiple launch rocket system (MLRS) that made its public debut at China's National Day parade on October 1 has been identified as a state-of-the-art piece of weaponry capable of firing both rockets and ballistic missiles, according to a leading military magazine.
A report in the latest issue of Modern Ships also gave the new hardware a name - the Type PCL191 - saying it was a modular launcher based on the AR3 system developed by China for the export market.
Unlike other weapon systems on display in Beijing, which had their names emblazoned along their sides, the Type PCL191 rumbled through the streets of Beijing on the back of heavy-duty trucks with almost complete anonymity.
A commentator for state broadcaster CCTV described it simply as a "self-propelled rocket launcher with precision strike capability".
Modern Ships went further, saying the modular rocket system can carry eight 370mm (141/2 inch) rockets - each with a range of 350km (220 miles) - or two 750mm Fire Dragon 480 tactical ballistic missiles - each capable of flying up to 500km.
While it is not known how many PCL191 units China has, a report by PLA Daily - the mouthpiece of the People's Liberation Army - said that an MLRS brigade was stationed with the 72nd Group Army in Huzhou, Zhejiang province.
Based on China's eastern seaboard, the 72nd is one of three active group armies under the Eastern Theatre Command and has priority status in terms of readiness, strength and equipment.
According to a military source, who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue, a second PCL191 brigade is stationed to the south of Huzhou, in Xiamen, Fujian province, the nearest point on China's mainland to Taiwan.
Relations across the Taiwan Strait have slumped since President Tsai Ing-wen rose to power in the self-ruled island in 2016. Beijing regards Taiwan as part of its sovereign territory - a claim vehemently opposed by Taipei - and has repeatedly threatened the use of military force to reunify it with the mainland.
In an interview with CCTV in October, Wang Tanshen, a master sergeant with the 72nd Group Army's artillery brigade, said the range of the new launch system was "seven times" that of its predecessor.
"The new generation MLRS has extended our firing range to cover everywhere we want to hit," he said.
The Taiwan Strait is just 180km across.
Song Zhongping, a military commentator for Phoenix Television in Hong Kong, said Chinese scientists had been working hard to extend the capabilities and range of the PLA's multiple launch rocket systems.
"Chinese MLRS technology has kept pace with American products, which have also successfully merged rockets and missiles," the former instructor with the PLA's Second Artillery Corp said.
"Scientists have upgraded the chassis (of the trucks that carry the launchers), the explosives (used to propel the rockets and missiles) and other technologies to extend the firing range of the MLRS and improve its precision strike capabilities," he said.
According to the Chinese military magazine Ordnance Industry Science Technology, the PCL191 units are carried on 45-tonne trucks and require just three people to operate them.
Chinese missiles and rockets are guided by the domestically developed BeiDou navigation satellite system, which is a rival to the United States' GPS system.
The anonymous source said that in the event of a military conflict, the new PCL191 system could be used to destroy strategic targets such as airports, command centres and supply bases.
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