Helicopters dropped off dozens of soldiers to the ground while stirring up clouds of yellow sand, as jets flying overhead fired infrared flares into the sky.
China on Sunday displayed its most cutting-edge armaments in a magnificent military parade to mark the 90th founding anniversary of the People's Liberation Army (PLA).
This is the first time that China has commemorated the Army Day, which falls on Aug. 1, with a military parade since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949.
Unlike the grand parades staged at Tian'anmen Square, this was held at the remote Zhurihe military training base amidst a desolate landscape in northern China and had more of a combat feel.
At the height of the parade, 18 helicopters dropped off scores of soldiers on sandy prairies, blowing up huge clouds of yellow sand.
Within seconds, the soldiers stormed out and assembled for inspection.
Wang Ruicheng, deputy head of the general office of the parade headquarters, said participants of the parade were soldiers undergoing combat training at the Zhurihe base.
In past parades, more attention was paid to ceremonial details such as grooming and moves in unison. The Zhurihe parade, however, feels real, he said.
"Here, soldiers have stares that kill," said Wang.
Unlike previous National Day (Oct. 1) parades and the 2015 V-Day parade held in Beijing, no military bands or choruses were present, and attendance was limited to military staff.
Troops were not required to perform their trademark synchronized goose-stepping march-past.
Instead, soldiers clad in sand-covered combat uniforms all proceeded in and on top of rows upon rows of tanks, armored vehicles and missile launchers that roared past the rostrum, while formations of China's latest fighter jets roared overhead.
At one point, seven J-11B fighter jets fired infrared decoy flares into the air.
"This is the first time that we employed a real battle-like maneuver in a military parade," said Xiao Jun, lead captain of the J-11B echelon.
The change reflects the improvement of the PLA's combat capabilities in the wake of sweeping reforms launched since 2015 to boost the military's readiness to fight and win wars, Wang said. Enditem