Chinese state media has released footage of the country’s latest weapon: a 1,100lb munitions dispenser and air-to-surface stealth missile.
It can drop up to 240 submunitions to destroy ground targets across 64,000 square feet, according to China’s official defence programme.
The missile has been described as ‘one of the most important advanced weapons for the Chinese military right now’. Its introduction came amid spiking tensions between Beijing and Washington.
The weapon, known as the Tianlei 500 in Chinese or ‘Sky Thunder’ in English, was featured on a military programme by China Central Television on Friday.
According to the report, Sky Thunder is a precision-guided, modular and multi-functional munition.
It has a square cross-section, which can not only increase its explosive load but also help it dodge radar detection.
The missile has a pair of folding wings towards the back, and they can provide the weapon with extra lift.
Sky Thunder has a range of more than 60 kilometres (37 miles), which means soldiers can deploy it at a farther distance from the enemy.
With the help of the dispenser, fighter jets would be able to attack targets without having to penetrate the enemy zone, according to the station.
An anonymous senior weapon engineer claimed that Sky Thunder could carry six types of submunitions for blasting different ground objects, from tanks to airports.
‘It can drop different types of submunitions depending on different types of targets to achieve effective destruction,’ the expert told the presenter.
He added that the missile could scatter as many as 240 submunitions across an area of 6,000 square metres (64,583 square feet) or more.
One expert told South China Morning Post that the missile was ‘one of the most important advanced weapons for the Chinese military right now’.
Hong Kong-based military analyst Song Zhongping explained that it would be ‘very effective’ in attacking and destroying various kinds of ground targets at once.
Chinese state media introduced Sky Thunder the same day Taiwan finalised an arms deal of 66 new American-made F-16 fighter jets.
The self-ruled island formally signed the agreement to buy the warplanes from Lockheed Martin amid heightened tensions between China and the United States.
The Pentagon confirmed the $62billion (£47billion) deal on its website on Friday but did not specify the buyer.
On Tuesday, the US guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin sailed through the narrow and sensitive Taiwan Strait, the US navy said, in what have become relatively routine trips in recent months, though they always anger China.
China’s military said today that the latest US navy sailing near Chinese-claimed Taiwan was ‘extremely dangerous’ and stirring up such trouble was in neither country’s interests.
The Eastern Theatre Command of China’s People’s Liberation Army said its air and naval forces followed and monitored the US ship throughout its voyage.
‘Any words or deeds that … cause trouble in the Taiwan Strait are not in line with the fundamental interests of China and the United States, harm the well-being of compatriots on both sides of the strait, pose real threats to peace and stability in the region and are extremely dangerous’, it said.
Chinese forces would remain on high alert at all times to safeguard China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, it added.
Taiwan’s defence ministry said the US ship was on an ‘ordinary mission’ and passed through the Taiwan Strait in a southerly direction.
The sailing comes a week after US Health Secretary Alex Azar visited Taiwan, the highest-level US official to travel to the island since Washington broke off diplomatic ties with Taipei in favour of Beijing in 1979.
China responded by sending fighter jets close to Taiwan.
China considers Taiwan a purely domestic matter and routinely calls it the most sensitive and important issue in its relations with the United States.