A parade of weapons and equipment including nuclear, hypersonic and stealthy ones were spotted in Beijing early Sunday morning during the second rehearsal to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, delighting online legions of patriotic military enthusiasts.
Photos and videos began surfacing on Chinese mainland social media as early as Saturday morning as military hardware rolled into downtown Beijing districts to prepare to join in the massive late-night rehearsal.
Type 99A tanks driving down Beijing boulevards were among the first images, their desert camouflage delighting enthusiasts who recalled the jungle look of previous parades.
The tanks were everywhere: more than 20 in one picture and that wasn't counting all the infantry fighting vehicles, amphibious assault vehicles and mobile artillery.
Type 15 tanks were also sighted on the streets of the capital city, suggesting that the lightweight tank will make its debut to the general public on October 1.
Military observers identified Dongfeng-41 (DF-41) intercontinental ballistic missiles, capable of carrying 10 independently targetable nuclear warheads and hitting anywhere on Earth, according to Hong Kong Economic Times.
They also spotted the DF-17 ballistic missile, said to be carrying a hypersonic glide vehicle similar to Russia's Avangard, moving along the highway into Beijing.
Meanwhile online videos and photos captured two types of drone: one aerodynamic design believed to be high supersonic and stealthy, the other with a fly wing stealth design: probably the Sharp Sword stealth attack drone seen test flying back in 2013.
More mysterious was an image of a large autonomous underwater vehicle. Its mission remains unknown.
Beijing residents also claimed to have spotted new anti-ship missiles, anti-aircraft missiles and cruise missiles. They also speculated they had identified a long-range multiple rocket launcher.
During the rehearsal on Sunday morning, enthusiasts filmed warplanes including J-20 stealth fighters, Y-20 transport planes, early warning aircraft and special mission aircraft.
A new bomber, the H-6N, was in the formations on Sunday. Unlike the H-6K, its predecessor, it can refuel mid-air, extending its range, reports said. Military enthusiasts speculated the plane could carry and fire a ballistic missile in the air.
A military expert who requested anonymity told the Global Times Sunday that some of the weapons and equipment under discussion were among the world's most advanced, showing China's rising capability to safeguard its sovereignty, territorial integrity and the fruits of peaceful development.
"These weapons, if they turn out to be true, will be used to maintain peace and stability and deter conflicts," the expert said. "China will never trigger a war, just like in the past."
The military parade aims to showcase national and military power and inspire Chinese people's patriotism, Major General Cai Zhijun, deputy head of the office of the leading group for the military parade, said at a press conference held on August 29.
"It will show the army's unchangeable spirit of listening to the Communist Party of China, reflecting on the achievements of military reform and mobilizing the people to make unremitting efforts to realize the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation."
The parade is neither aimed at any specific country or region, nor targets any particular affair, Cai said.
A parade of common people followed the military parade in the rehearsal, a participant who asked not to be named told the Global Times on Sunday.
Refusing to share more details on the mass parade, the participant said it was "spectacular and will resonate in the hearts of Chinese people."
In previous parades, people marched alongside festooned vehicles, Chinese experts noted.
The rehearsal for the evening gala on October 1 features singing and dancing and will continue into Sunday night, the participant said.
More than 100,000 people will participate in the parade and 60,000 will attend the evening gala in Beijing on October 1, said Wang Xiaohui, executive deputy head of the Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee