The People’s Liberation Army of China (PLA, the official name of the Armed Forces of China) began to reform along with the whole country since the end of the 70 of the last century. An additional incentive to reform was the extremely unsuccessful war with Vietnam at the start of 1979.
However, at the first stage, the reform was reduced only to a significant reduction in personnel (first of all, naturally, at the expense of the ground forces), extremely poorly trained and secured, at best, only small weapons. Also, a significant amount of production equipment from the Second World War and 50-s was reduced. Accordingly, many units and formations, mainly infantry units, were disbanded (they were precisely infantry units in the original meaning of the term). There was no real reform, in fact. However, these measures have significantly reduced military spending, freeing up funds for economic reforms. In addition, the PLA received the right to economic activity. This eased the burden of maintaining the PLA for the state budget, but it generated such a huge corruption that in 1998, the army economy was completely abolished.
FOLLOWING THE GROWTH OF THE ECONOMY
As the economic power of the PRC grew, military expenses gradually began to grow, based on our own and foreign (both Soviet / Russian and Western) technologies, new types of weapons and military equipment were created.
At first, these samples were qualitatively significantly inferior to the best foreign ones. The PLA command understood this perfectly well, so these samples were produced in very limited quantities and were, in fact, experimental. However, outside of the PRC, including in Russia, very many experts took such a policy as a long-term one. The thesis that the PLA buys modern equipment in insignificant quantities only for elite units is still found in the literature, although it has long been irrelevant to reality. After one or another model of military equipment was brought to the tactical-technical characteristics (TTH) required by the PLA command, it went into mass production, which is easily ensured by the enormous capabilities of the Chinese military-industrial complex. The PLA has the slogan “combining mechanization and informatization”, meaning mass purchases of modern equipment of all classes for all types of armed forces while simultaneously introducing into the army methods of network-centric warfare. At present, almost all classes of weapons and equipment, China has reached the level of the most advanced countries. If there is a certain qualitative lag in certain parameters, it is not a matter of principle, moreover, it is easily compensated by the amount of equipment produced.
Until recently, almost no changes occurred in the former organizational structure of the PLA, which was built according to the “Soviet-Prussian” model. Because of this, the supply of modern technology to the troops was, to a certain extent, “the infusion of new wine into old bottles”. Finally, the organizational reform of the PLA began with 2016, it was she who really changes the face of the Chinese Armed Forces. The PLA ceases to be “Soviet-Prussian” and becomes “Russian-American.” Obviously, it was the United States Armed Forces and the current Armed Forces of the Russian Federation that became the main models for the Chinese military-political leadership during the reform of the last two years. At the same time, of course, the new PLA does not copy either the American or the Russian Armed Forces.
It should be noted that the party leadership of the PLA only strengthened. The Central Military Council (CEC) of the CPC remains the main governing body of the PLA and in fact the country as a whole.
At present, the CEA consists of a joint headquarters (includes headquarters of the Armed Forces), five departments (political work, weapons development, training of troops, supplies, national mobilization), three commissions (political and legal, discipline verification, science and technology) six departments (strategic planning, general affairs, reform and organizational structure, audit, administration, international cooperation). The former General Staff and its general departments were liquidated; the new Joint Staff is in its essence much more similar to the American Committee of Chiefs of Staff. At the same time, the ground forces received their own headquarters for the first time, the General Staff previously performed its functions.
The subordinate offices of the Central Military Command are now five commanders in the theater of operations - Northern (headquarters in Shenyang), Central (Beijing), Western (Chengdu), Southern (Guangzhou), Eastern (Nanjing). They replaced the former seven military districts. Commanders are the highest operational-strategic associations of the PLA, under their control are all the formations, units and ships of the ground forces, the Air Force and the PLA Navy.
In addition, the Rocket Forces are under the command of the Central Air Force, as well as a completely new, fifth type of aircraft - the Strategic Support Force. They are responsible for preparing the network-centric warfare, conducting cyber operations, war in space, EW.
NEW TYPE OF THE ARMED FORCES
Most of the structural units of the Strategic Support Forces (MTP) are related to space infrastructure. These are the Jiuquan Center for Space Launches (aka Shuangchenzi Cosmodrome or “20 Base”), Taiyuan Space Launch Center (Uchzhai Cosmodrome, “25 Base”), Sichan Space Launch Center (Cosmodrome Xichan, “27 Base”), two control centers for space launches (23 Space Center), two control centers for space launches (21 Cosmodrome, “29 Base”), two control centers for space launches (Space Center Xichan, “61786 Base”), two control centers for space launches in Beijing and Xi'an), Ocean Space Monitoring Center (“XNUMX base”). In addition, the SSP includes a nuclear test site in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (aka “XNUMX Base”), the Center for Aerodynamic Research and Development (“XNUMX Base”), the PLA Institute of Foreign Languages, the PLA Medical Centers, and the XNUMX Division ( Research Institute in the field of information technology).
China became the first country in the world to create this type of aircraft, like the SSP. He will be responsible not for the logistical support of the traditional armed forces, but for the development and maintenance of new methods of combat operations. Obviously, the forms and methods of network-centric warfare for the PLA itself and their opposition in the armed forces of other countries, primarily in the US military, will be developed here. A very high degree of dependence of the US Armed Forces on satellites for various purposes becomes one of their weakest points. Physical destruction and / or electronic suppression of the enemy's satellite will be for the PLA in general and the SSP in the first place, apparently, no less important task than the deployment of its own satellite constellation. In addition, information warfare in the broadest sense of the term, from EW to psychological operations, will be assigned to the BSC.
The view of the Armed Forces, which previously had the rather strange name “Second Artillery”, from 2016 onwards received the more adequate name “PLA Rocket Forces” (the actual analogue of the Russian Strategic Missile Forces). Apparently, he retained the former internal structure - the rocket armies (bases), having in their composition several rocket brigades. Each brigade is armed with one type of missile, comprising from three to six missile battalions. Each battalion consists of three rocket companies, which, in turn, may include three rocket platoons. Depending on the type of missiles, one launcher can be armed with either a rocket company or a rocket platoon. Accordingly, each team can have from 9 to 54 PU (mine or mobile).
In the present Missile Forces there are nine rocket armies, from 61 to 69. Their composition is described in detail in the article “Nuclear lawlessness it’s time to stop” (see “IEE” from 06.10.17).
FROM DIVISION - TO TEAMS
In the ground forces and the PLA Air Force, even before the 2016 reform, a gradual transition from divisions to brigades began as the main type of formation. In the land forces, many brigades of various types were created, very unevenly distributed among districts and armies. In the Air Force, where there were 44 air divisions, each of which included three air regiments, the transition to brigades occurs by withdrawing the regiments from the divisions and transforming them into brigades with the same numbers (while, in fact, the regiment remains in the previous states). Accordingly, one or two regiments remain in the division, or its headquarters are generally disbanded. In the course of the current reform, the process of “brigadization” in the Air Force accelerated, and in the ground forces it acquired a fundamentally new content, which, in fact, can be considered the second stage of the current reform (started in spring 2017). It implies the release of ground troops from the remnants of the traditional low-quality infantry and their final transformation into the basis of modern aircraft.
Currently, there are 13 armies left in the ground forces, each of which has six combined-arms and six specialized brigades.
Combined arms brigades were created by total "mixing" of the previous tank, mechanized and motorized infantry divisions and brigades. According to the available information, the combined-arms brigade consists of four line battalions, an artillery battalion (division), an air defense battalion (division), an engineer battalion, and a number of other units. Each line battalion has 31 infantry fighting vehicles or armored personnel carriers and six 120-mm mortars, in addition, two of the four line battalions have 40 tanks or BMTV. The artillery battalion has 36 self-propelled guns and / or MLRS and 9 self-propelled anti-tank systems, in the air defense battalion there are 18 air defense systems and MANPADS each.
Specialized brigades in each army are one artillery, air defense, special forces, army brigade aviationengineering support. Their numbers are similar to the number of the army in which they are part. In two of the 13 armies, instead of the army aviation brigade, there is an airborne assault brigade.
The area of responsibility of the Northern Command (SC) of the PLA now covers the entire border with Russia (except for the small western sector in Altai), the border with North Korea and most of the border with Mongolia. In the land forces of the UK there are three armies.
The 78 Army - 8-I, 48-I, 68-I, 115-I, 202-I, 204-I combined brigade, 78-artillery, air defense, special forces, army aviation, engineering support brigade.
The 79 Army - 46-I, 116-I, 119-I, 190-I, 191-I, 200-I combined brigade, 79-artillery, air defense, special forces, army aviation, engineering support brigade.
The 80 Army - 47-I, 69-I, 118-I, 138-I, 199-I, 203-I combined brigade, 80-artillery, air defense, special forces, army aviation, engineering support brigade.
11 border brigades (from 321 to 331) and four coastal defense brigades (from 332 to 335) are under the direct control of the SC.
The UK Air Force has six air divisions (1-I, 5-I, 11-I, 12-I, 16-I, 21-I, including a total of 13 air regiments) and nine airplanes (2-I, 3-I, 15 th, 31-i, 61-i, 88-i, 89-i, 90-i, 91-i).
Also in the subordination of the UK is now the Northern Fleet PLA Navy. In addition to the ship structure (including the only aircraft carrier and almost all the PLA), it includes the 2-I and 5-I naval aviation divisions and the 77-I Marine Brigade.
The zone of responsibility of the Central Command (CC) does not have access to external borders, it carries out protection of the capital and other "central" functions. In his land forces there are also three armies.
The 81 Army - 7-I, 70-I, 162-I, 189-I, 194-I, 195-I combined brigade, 81-artillery, air defense, special forces, army aviation, engineering support brigade.
The 82 Army - 6-I, 80-I, 151-I, 188-I, 196-I, 205-I combined brigade, 82-artillery, air defense, special forces, army aviation, engineering support brigade.
The 83 Army - 11-I, 58-I, 60-I, 113-I, 129-I, 193-I armored brigade, 83-artillery, air defense, special forces, engineering, brigade support, 161-I air assault brigade.
In direct submission to the Central Committee is the 112-I mechanized division, "surviving" from the pre-reform period.
The Air Force Central Committee has six air divisions (7-I, 13-I, 15-I, 19-I, 24-I, 36-I, including a total of 15 air regiments) and 56-I air-crew.
In addition, in the zone of responsibility of the Central Committee, units and formations are stationed that are directly subordinate to the headquarters of the ground forces or the air force. These are the Beijing garrison (1-i and 3-i garrison divisions, artillery division), 15-i airborne corps (127-i, 128-i, 130-i, 131-i, 133-i, 134-i air airborne brigades, special forces, support brigades, aviation), 34-th Air Division, Air Force Training and Testing Center (170-I, 171-I, 172-I, 175-I, 176-I aviation brigade).
The Western Command (LC) has two Army Ground Forces.
The 76 Army - 12-I, 17-I, 56-I, 62-I, 149-I, 182-I combined brigade, 76-artillery, air defense, special forces, army aviation, engineering support brigade.
The 77 Army - 39-I, 40-I, 55-I, 139-I, 150-I, 181-I combined brigade, 77-artillery, air defense, special forces, army aviation, engineering support brigade.
As part of the Air Force ZK there are four air divisions (4-I, 6-I, 20-I, 33-I, including a total of 11 air regiments), five air guards (16-I, 109-I, 110-I, 111-I, 112 -I) and 178-I brigade of combat UAVs.
The Xinjiang and Tibetan provincial military districts, which were previously part of the Lanzhou Military District, and then briefly remained in the ZK, are now directly subordinated to the command of the ground forces. Apparently, they basically retained the pre-reform structure. As part of Xinjiang IN stayed 4-I Infantry, 8-I easily mechanized, 6-I and 11-I gornopehotnye division, 2-Artillery Brigade air defense brigade of special forces brigade, 3-brigade army aviation, engineering team, three border brigades (318-i - 320-i). As part of the Tibetan VO - 52-I and 53-I mining, 54-I combined arms, 308-I artillery, 651-I anti-aircraft missile, engineering, special forces, army aviation brigades, four border brigades (305-I - 308-X ).
The zone of responsibility of the Southern Command (South Caucasus) is the border of the PRC with the three countries of Southeast Asia. In his land forces there are two armies.
The 74 Army - 1-I, 16-I, 125-I, 132-I, 154-I, 163-I combined brigade, 74-artillery, air defense, special forces, army aviation, engineering support brigade.
The 75 Army - 15-I, 31-I, 32-I, 37-I, 122-I, 123-I armored brigade, 75-artillery, air defense, special forces, engineering, brigade support, 121-I air assault brigade.
In direct subordination of the South Caucasus are the garrison of Hong Kong, five border brigades (313-i - 317-i), two brigades of coastal defense (311-i, 312-i).
As part of the Air Force UK there are five air divisions (2-I, 8-I, 9-I, 18-I, 44-I, include a total of 10 aviation regiments), 7 aviation brigades (5-I, 54-I, 124-I, 125 -th, 126-I, 130-I, 131-I), a team of combat UAVs. It is possible that the 6 th air regiment of the 2 th air division (it is he who receives the Su-35С fighters purchased in Russia) has already been transformed into the 6 th air brigade.
The South Fleet of the People's Republic of China, including the 8-I and 9-I naval aviation divisions, the 1-I and 164-brigade of marines is also subordinate to the South Caucasus.
The Eastern Command (VK) is the only one that completely copied one of the seven “old” military districts (Nanking). Inherited (only renumbered) and his three army army.
The 71 Army - 2-I, 35-I, 160-I, 178-I, 179-I, 235-I combined brigade, 71-artillery, air defense, special forces, army aviation, engineering support brigade.
The 72 Army - 5-I, 10-I, 34-I, 85-I, 90-I, 124-I combined brigade, 72-artillery, air defense, special forces, army aviation, engineering support brigade.
The 73 Army - 3-I, 14-I, 86-I, 91-I, 92-I, 145-I combined brigade, 73-artillery, air defense, special forces, army aviation, engineering support brigade.
Four coastal defense brigades are directly subordinated to the VC (from 301 to 304).
As part of the Air Force VK there are five air divisions (10-I, 14-I, 26-I, 28-I, 32-I, include a total of 12 aviation regiments), 9 aircraft (7-I, 8-I, 9-I, 78 , 83, 85, 86, 93, transport and rescue team, combat UAV brigade.
Also in the subordination of the VC is the Eastern Fleet of the PRC Navy, including the 4-I and 6-I naval aviation divisions.
From "human waves" to mass use robots
From the new structure of the PLA, we can conclude about the number of military equipment of various classes in its composition. It is quite obvious that the new connections were not created so that the tank crews continued to ride on the Tours 59 (T-54), and the pilots - to fly on the J-7 (MiG-21) fighter jets. All the old equipment still remaining in the military will be replaced in the very foreseeable future by a new one already in mass production.
In particular, based on the number and standard structure of the formations, it can be said that in the PLA formation there will be at least 7 thousand tanks and BMTV new types. The most powerful of these is the 99 Tour, a kind of alter ego (but by no means analogous) to the Russian T-90. Now there is from 900 to 1000 tanks of this type, almost exclusively in parts of the SC and CC. Tank Ture 96 (already available up to 3,5 thousand of its units of several modifications), alter ego T-72, comes in parts of LC, VK, JC, Tibetan and Xinjiang IN.
The number of new infantry fighting vehicles (Tour 04, Tour 05, etc.) and armored personnel carriers (Tour 92, Tour 09, etc.) should exceed 10 thousand units. The number of new SAUs (Tour 05, Tour 07, Tour 09) will reach at least 3 thousand units, about the same number will be available MLRS (Tour 03, family WM, family WS, the last are the strongest MLRS in the world). For all the above classes of weapons, at least half of these numerical indicators have already been implemented. The same applies to ATRA HJ-9 and HJ-10, SAM HQ-16, HQ-17, HQ-22, MANPADS QW-1, QW-2, FN-6, FN-16, ZRPK Tour 95 and Toure 07, combat Z-10 and Z-19 helicopters. To a large extent, the lag of the PLA ground forces from the most advanced armies of the world in the field of military air defense and army aviation has already been overcome.
It is noteworthy that work is actively being carried out to equip the ground forces with robots designed to replace sappers and infantrymen on the battlefield in the first place. This shows how dramatically the PLA has changed over the period of reforms: even during the war with Vietnam, the use of “human waves” was considered a normal tactical method, that is, the life of an ordinary soldier was absolutely worthless.
It should be noted that the rather widespread opinion that the role and importance of ground forces in the PLA has noticeably decreased as a result of the recent reforms is a profound delusion. In fact, the number of personnel of the ground forces and, accordingly, its share in the total number of personnel of the armed forces of the People's Republic of China has decreased. However, as mentioned above, there was only a complete liberation of the ground forces from poorly armed and trained infantry, from which their real combat effectiveness only increased. In general, the modern Armed Forces are characterized by a relative reduction in the "weight" of the ground forces precisely because of a reduction in the number of their personnel, the PLA fully fits into this global trend. At the same time, in terms of technical renewal, the ground forces of the PLA are in no way inferior to other types of aircraft. Extremely actively conducted combat training. In particular, the actions of PLA units and formations in conditions of extremely low temperatures (in Inner Mongolia and Heilongjiang Province) have been constantly practiced in recent years, and not only those from the SC participate in these exercises. Exercises are regularly conducted with the development of deep offensive operations by forces of large military groups from several commanders (previously - several districts). Also, the transfer of personnel and combat equipment of entire units over long distances (over 1000 km) using commercial road, rail, and air transport is constantly being worked out.
In the Air Force and Naval Aviation, the PLA Navy now has more than 220 JH-7 bombers, more 400 heavy fighters of the Su-27 / 30 / 35С / J-11 / 15 / 16 family, more than 250 J-10 fighters. At the same time, the production of JH-7, J-11В (unlicensed copy of Su-27), J-16 (unlicensed copy of Su-30), J-10 (new modifications B and C) continues at high rates. Su-35С fighters are being purchased in Russia (now there is 8, it will be 24). China has bypassed Russia in the production of the 5 generation fighter. If the Russian T-50 (future Su-57) is not yet out of the test stage, then the PLA 176 Air Force Brigade already has at least 6 J-20 serials with “front-line” five-digit numbers. Also, China has very significantly bypassed Russia in the development of UAVs. If in the RF Armed Forces there are only short-range reconnaissance UAVs, then the PLA has a full range of reconnaissance UAVs, as well as several types of combat UAVs (WD-1, WJ-600, SN family, and also UAVs converted from old J-6 combat aircraft ). Along with the acquisition of the C-400 SAM in Russia, the development of its own HQ-9 AAMS continues. Work is underway to create a strategic bomber, similar to the American B-2, to replace the outdated H-6.
Combat training in the PLA Air Force is no less intensive than in the ground forces. Exercises are held with the participation of hundreds of combat aircraft and the creation of conditions as close as possible to the modern high-tech war.
At the same time, the integration of the ground forces and the air force within the commands on the theater of operations will give them additional opportunities. Thus, a combination of tactical ballistic and cruise missiles, long-range MLRS systems of the WS family, combat and reconnaissance UAVs will provide the PLA with a breakthrough even of the most modern ground-based air defense and practically unhindered actions of its own manned aircraft. Even the armed forces of the United States and the Russian Federation, not to mention any other army in the world, do not possess such capabilities today.
The PLA Navy was practically not affected by the current organizational reform, except for the fact that their Northern, Eastern and Southern fleets were subordinate to the eponymous commands. China's nuclear submarine fleet has not yet left the stage of ship construction in small batches, which, however, is offset by the presence of the largest in the world (more than 55 units) fleet non-nuclear submarines, including the latest submarines of projects 039A / B and 043, as well as Russian submarines of project 636EM. In addition to the Liaoning aircraft carrier (the former Soviet Varyag), its own aircraft carrier, similar in design, is almost completed. 11 “Chinese Orly Berkov” destroyers of project 052С / D have already been put into operation, the construction of ships of project 052D continues (the Russian Navy does not have ships of this type). The PLA Navy confidently takes the first place in the world in the number of modern frigates (24 frigates of Project 054A have already been commissioned, the construction of the series is ongoing). The possibilities of Chinese shipbuilding are especially clearly visible on the example of the construction of Project 056 ships, which are a kind of transitional class between frigates and corvettes. Since 2012, 32 ships of this type were commissioned by the PLA Navy; construction continues. For comparison: since 2001, 7 ships of a similar class were put into operation (5 projects 20380, 2 projects 11661), in the USA since 2005 - 9 (5 types of Independence, 4 types of Freedom). That is, China has surpassed the United States and Russia doubled in a much shorter period of time.
It is precisely the development of the Navy that is now most clearly demonstrates Beijing's desire for external expansion and for acquiring the ability to "project force" on a global scale.
At the official level, the PRC leadership states that it is not going to build full-fledged naval base abroad, following the example of the United States. However, the construction of "points of comprehensive provision for dual use" is not excluded. These points should make up the “Pearl Thread”, that is, a chain of PLA Navy bases, ensuring unimpeded transportation of oil and other strategic goods from the Middle East and from Africa to China and the implementation of the concept of “One belt - one way” (New Silk Road).
The “string of pearls” begins with the Yulin naval base in the territory of the PRC itself, on Hainan Island. It is the largest naval base in Asia, capable of receiving and servicing ships of all classes, and in an underground shelter, the naval base can be located up to 20 submarines, including SSBNs and submarines.
Further, the chain of bases includes objects on disputed islands in the South China Sea. On the Paracel Islands, this is Woody Island, which houses the Xisha base station with port facilities, a large runway and HQ-9 ground-to-ground positions. On the Spratly Islands is located the Firei Cross home base, which includes seven reefs. These reefs are extremely small in size, however many different structures have already been built on them - runways, helicopter platforms, weather stations, fuel and ammunition storage bases, air defense systems, radar stations, etc.
There are no other PLA Navy bases in the Pacific Ocean outside the territorial waters of the People’s Republic of China, but there are two auxiliary facilities — a satellite meteorological station on Karakira Island (Solomon Islands) and a surface monitoring equipment post (including RTR) on Tuamotu Island (French Polynesia). The latter is interesting in that the intelligence object of the PRC Armed Forces is actually located in the territory of the country - a member of NATO. In addition, the PLA Navy can use to refuel Port Moresby (Papua - New Guinea).
As for the "string of pearls," after the disputed islands of the South China Sea, its points are located in the Indian Ocean - in Southeast and South Asia, in the Middle East and in Africa.
The first "official" full-fledged foreign naval base of China was the port of Djibouti (the capital of the same name state). Not legally, but in fact the port of Gwadar in Pakistan is in fact just as full-fledged naval base. For MTO Navy ships of the PLA and rest hours of crews used Chauphyu ports, Yangon and Sittue in Myanmar, Hambantota in Sri Lanka, Chittangong in Bangladesh, Salalah in Oman, Aden in Yemen, glowing in Mozambique, Victoria in the Seychelles, Antseranane Madagascar, Mombasa in Kenya, Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. In addition, on the islands of Coco, belonging to Myanmar, is a large electronic center of the PLA Navy. It is a navigation station for the submarine, is used for radar observation of the surface situation, communications, reconnaissance and EW.
There are assumptions that have not yet been directly confirmed that the second full-fledged Chinese naval base outside China will be Walvis Bay in Namibia, that is, in the South Atlantic, where the Pearl String will stretch in the next stage. It can then move north to include Luanda in Angola and Lagos in Nigeria, which will make China an Atlantic power. This advancement will be based on China’s construction of land communications across Africa in the latitudinal (to Nigeria and Senegal) and meridional (to South Africa) directions. And the beginning of all these communications will be Djibouti.
In general, the PLA has long been over-excessive for the defense of its own country, while its capabilities continue to increase rapidly. This applies to both the SNF and all components of conventional forces. The current reform should give the PLA a new quality, securing its place among the three strongest armies in the world.
New Great Wall
- Alexander Khramchikhin