On the command "fire," members of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Rocket Force watched as a projectile was launched into the sky above a desert in western China.
Temperatures in this harsh corner of China often drop below minus 10 degrees Celsius this time of year, and frost was forming on the soldiers' eyebrows.
After a decade of service, Rocket Force battalion commander Li Weiran is no stranger to the training schedule.
"Each of us understands that drills prepare us for real warfare," said Li.
The live-fire drill was the first held by the Rocket Force's missile brigade this year, with drills also held by the Army, Navy, Air Force, Strategic Support Force and the Armed Police.
These drills are just a glimpse into China's ambitious plan to overhaul its military to make it stronger, more disciplined and better managed.
President Xi Jinping, who is also chair of the Central Military Commission (CMC), has said that defence and military reforms are crucial to the rejuvenation of the nation; "the Chinese Dream."
"Building a strong military is a pressing task for China as the information age has inspired major countries in the world to update and rejig their military systems and strategies," said Zhang Xueli, professor with the National University of Defense Technology.
Zhang hailed military reform as the only way to enhance real combat capacity, eradicate institutional barriers and elevate China's military and world standing.
Speaking at a meeting on military reform in November, Xi promised a complete overhaul of the armed forces' administrative and command systems, and said substantial changes should be achieved by 2020.
Traditionally, the administration and command systems were not managed separately, as such, modernization, specialization and combat capacity had been held back.