The state-owned CCTV-7's Defence Programme on August 14, amid worsening tensions between Beijing and Taipei, revealed what a Chinese analyst described as ‘one of the most important advanced weapons for the Chinese military right now’. It revealed details of the PLA’s new airborne munitions dispenser and how it can be used to attack targets. It gave the details of the Tianlei 500 – a 500kg precision-guided munitions dispenser and air-to-surface missile. CCTV-7 disclosed that the dispenser has wings and a square cross-section to hold submunitions, which can also reduce its radar cross-section to boost its stealth capability and make it harder to intercept; its wings can provide extra lift and give the weapon a range of more than 60km (37 miles), meaning it can be dropped at a safe distance from the enemy; the Tianlei 500, which translates as Sky Thunder, was designed and made by China North Industries Group, or Norinco; it can carry six types of submunitions to attack different targets, a senior engineer who works on precision-guided weapons for Norinco told CCTV-7; it can carry up to 240 submunitions and when dispersed, they can spread to over 6,000 square metres; the precision-guided dispenser fills a gap for China’s air force and will boost its combat capability, which has been limited by a lack of advanced weapons.

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