Paratroopers bear PLA's new automatic rifles

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Holding newly equipped Type 03 automatic rifles, the PLA's airborne corps soldiers in their featured sky gray camouflage uniforms arrived.

The Type 03 automatic rifle is the latest member of the Chinese People's Liberation Army's Type 95 rifle series which adopt 5.8-mm caliber combining the advantages of both Russian-made AK-74 and U.S.-made M-16 small-caliber rifles.

The paratroopers on the parade also become the first official users of the new firearm as the rifle's unique foldable gunstocks can be seen in front of the soldier's chest.

Type 03 automatic rifle was initiated as a backup plan just after the Type 95 rifle, which has been widely adopted to replace the Type 81 rifles, became the PLA's standard equipment.

"The Type 95 rifle has a world popular Bullpup design, but many troops complained that their soldiers were not accustomed to the fashionable rifles without gunstocks," said Ma Shizeng, a retired light firearm expert.

The equipment of Type 95 series including Type 03 rifle among most of the PLA's troops to replace Type 81 series also embodies that the PLA's individual weapon has been upgraded from imitations of Russian models to independent designing, said Ma.

Different from the caliber of both Russian and NATO rifles, the PLA's own rifle criterion might be a typical footnote of the defensive nature of China's military development, said Duo Yingxian, an academician of Chinese Academy of Engineering and chief designer of Type 95 rifle series.

"If invading enemies captured the PLA's rifles in China, they could not fire them with foreign bullets," Duo said.

Bearing glorious battle histories in the Korean War and engagement in disaster relief as well as joint military exercises with foreign armies, the paratroopers first appeared on the National Day parade in 1954.

During the PLA's desperate rescue efforts two days after the deadly Wenchuan earthquake last May, 15 paratroopers from this airborne corps managed a high-altitude jump at about 5,000 kilometers above sea level to become the first rescuers arrived near the epicenter.

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