China's military has set up a new department modelled on the Pentagon's hi-tech research agency to develop state-of-the-art weapons such as stealth aircraft and electromagnetic cannons.
The Scientific Research Steering Committee was set up early this year, according to a documentary aired on state broadcaster CCTV that revealed the new department for the first time.
The committee will fall directly under the Central Military Commission (CMC), which is chaired by President Xi Jinping.
Xi has been driving an unprecedented military overhaul since he took the helm in 2012, with the ambition of transforming the People's Liberation Army into a nimble and modern fighting force.
The two most recent episodes of the 10-part series Carrying Reform Through to the End, which were broadcast on Sunday and Monday, explained the revamp and the new committee.
The broadcast suggested that the new agency was similar to the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), set up in 1957 by the Pentagon to look after breakthrough technologies to do with national security.
"As everyone knows, the internet, global positioning systems, stealth fighters, electromagnetic guns, laser weapons as well as other advanced technologies – most are DARPA-related," the voice-over said. "We should make greater efforts to promote scientific technology in our army if we want to win the competitive advantage."
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State media reported that the J-20, China's first stealth fighter, went into service with the PLA Air Force in March. Also in March, CCTV reported that leading naval engineer Rear Admiral Ma Weiming was developing a new integrated electrical propulsion system (IEPS) for PLA warships.
Ma said the IEPS was aimed at solving the problem of deploying high-energy radio-frequency (HERF) weapons on ships. HERF weapons use directed energy to damage digital equipment such as computers, and could be used in anti-missile systems. China, the US, Russia and India are developing such weapons.
The new steering committee and the CMC Science and Technology Commission will spearhead scientific and technological innovation, according to the CCTV documentary.