The People’s Liberation Army marked the start of the new year by revealing a new variant of the powerful rockets it has targeting Taiwan . The PCL-191 long-range multiple launch rocket system (MLRS), capable of firing 370mm rockets 350km (217 miles) or 750mm ballistic missiles 500km, was seen in the background of the year-opening training session of an artillery brigade in the southern province of Guangdong, according to photos published on the 74th Group Army’s official social media account. It was the first public display of the updated weapon, one of the world’s most powerful of its kind, since its debut at China’s National Day parade in 2019 . The demonstration followed the purchase by Taiwan of a truck-based MLRS with a comparable range from the United States in October. The PCL-191 that appeared in Monday’s photos has a different fire load than previously seen in public, with 10 300mm rocket launchers in two five-pack containers, instead of the eight 370mm launchers in two four-packs viewed on the original version that rumbled through Tiananmen Square on the back of heavy trucks two years ago . It had been reported that PCL-191 units were first assigned to the 72nd Group Army under the Eastern Theatre Command and deployed in Xiamen in southeastern Fujian province, the nearest point on China’s mainland to Taiwan-controlled territories. Meanwhile, the 74th is under the Southern Theatre Command, which would also be part of a potential military campaign over Taiwan with a focus on the southern part of the island. Beijing considers Taiwan a breakaway province and has vowed to reunite it with the mainland, by force if necessary. Tensions across the Taiwan Strait have intensified significantly in recent years, particularly against a backdrop of the rapidly deteriorating China-US relationship and, by contrast, bolstered ties between Washington and Taipei. In October, Taiwan received White House approval to acquire several advanced weapon systems , including Lockheed Martin’s truck-based rocket launcher called High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) that has a firing range up to 300km. The Taiwan Strait is just 180km across. Even the widest part in the south is no more than 280km. Beijing using ‘cognitive warfare’ to sway Taiwan opinion, warns report The PCL-191 enables the PLA Ground Force to cover all strategic targets with precision fire anywhere on the Taiwanese west coast. And Taiwan could strike the southeast coast of the mainland when the HIMARS launchers are delivered. The PCL-191 has adopted some of the world’s leading technologies to improve its range, precision and explosive power. Compared to Taiwan’s US-imported MLRS there are advantages in both range and quantity, according to Hong Kong military commentator Song Zhongping. “HIMARS could only pose some limited threat to the PLA. And if military action was to be taken, the first wave of strikes would aim to eliminate them,” Song said. The PCL-191s are mounted on 45-tonne trucks. The design is modular, based products such as the AR-3 system developed by China for the export market. Compared to earlier PLA MRLS such as PHL-03, the automatic loading system on the PCL-191 has a faster loading time – down from 1 hour to 10 minutes – and needs only three operating crew rather than four. A rocket costs about a third the cost of a PLA Rocket Force missile with the same range, which also makes it an affordable artillery for the army to generate saturated fire coverage, according to the chief designer of the PCL-191, Tang Qizhong.