The ground forces of the People’s Liberation Army of China (PLA) are the most numerous of the Chinese armed forces. Their number now reaches 1600 thousand people. In addition, there is a valid reserve numbering more than 800 thousand people. For these indicators, the ground forces of the PLA occupy the first place in the world, significantly surpassing similar forces of the United States and the Russian Federation, not to mention other major military powers.
FORCES MANEURAL AND TERRITORIAL
The ground forces of the PLA include maneuverable (main) forces numbering more than 800 thousand people, and local (territorial) forces, which are also approximately 800 thousand people.
The maneuverable forces are operatively subordinated to the General Staff of the PLA through the commands of military districts. Their mission - the conduct of hostilities in any area of the mainland of the national territory and beyond. Local troops are subordinate to the provincial commands. Together with the national militia, they must solve mainly security and defense tasks. One of the functions that are assigned to local troops is to ensure the protection of important communications in peacetime, and in wartime they must protect these communications from an enemy that has invaded deep into the national territory of the enemy or from its sabotage groups.
The territorial troops are deployed in the most dangerous directions of a possible invasion of the enemy troops and rely on defense positions equipped in advance in engineering. Several of these positions make up the defensive area (cover area). Local troops, in fact, are the legacy of the period when Chinese military-strategic concepts were built with the expectation of a large-scale invasion from the north and allowed the possibility of advancing the enemy deep into the territory of the PRC. They assumed the maintenance of mainly defensive hostilities of a positional nature. In addition, it was supposed to create guerrilla groups on their basis. Despite the fact that the concept of so-called active defense, which provides for both defensive and offensive actions when interacting with different types of armed forces and combat arms, is currently dominant in Chinese military theory, these outdated installations still have a certain impact on military strategic thinking of the Chinese political and military leadership. In peacetime, the function of local troops also includes rescue operations in their area of responsibility during natural disasters and man-made disasters. In wartime, in addition to performing purely military functions, they are assigned the task of eliminating the consequences of the use of the enemy weapons mass destruction and other modern means of fire exposure, leading to numerous casualties among the military and civilians, and massive destruction of the housing stock, infrastructure and industrial facilities, including potentially hazardous industries, nuclear and hydroelectric power plants.
Local troops are also assigned the task, jointly with the People’s Armed Police (CWP), to monitor border and coastal zones, as well as important military facilities and military infrastructure. Together with the CWP, they can be brought in to maintain public order and security. In this matter, they to some extent complement each other, performing their specific functions.
Well-trained Chinese infantry can operate effectively in all conditions. Reuters Photos
ACTIONS ON THE CONTINENT AND OUTSIDE
According to Chinese documents set out in open sources, the PLA Ground Forces as a whole are intended for combat operations on the continent. In addition to the number of them, the fundamental difference from other types of PLA armed forces is the diversity of both weapons and military equipment (IWT) and methods of warfare. The combat capabilities of the Ground Forces should ensure their ability, independently or in cooperation with other types of armed forces within the combined groups, to conduct effective offensive operations in order to defeat the enemy and master the territory he occupies, to carry out effective fire impact throughout the depth of his troops. In defense, they must firmly hold the occupied areas (boundaries), inflicting maximum losses on the enemy troops, thereby preparing favorable conditions for conducting their own counter-offensive operation.
The formation of the PRC as a new superpower, having its own spheres of influence and interests in various regions of the world, is reflected in the expansion of the range of tasks facing its armed forces, including the Ground Forces. PLA Formations have become involved in international operations under the auspices of the UN and other organizations designed to ensure peace, security and stability, both globally and regionally, including in international humanitarian operations, in anti-piracy actions, as well as in the practical implementation of international operations. arrangements. The latest example of such activity is the participation of Chinese and Russian warships in providing security for a ship that has removed Syrian chemical weapons.
The PLA Ground Forces as infantry are infantry (rifle, motorized and mechanized forces), tank troops, missile forces and artillery, air defense forces, army aviationas well as formations and units of combat and rear support (communications, reconnaissance, electronic warfare, engineering, radiation, chemical and biological defense, logistics services, medical support, research organizations, military schools, etc.) . Organizationally, the Special Forces Forces (Special Forces) are also included in the PLA Ground Forces.
The direct leadership of the PLA Ground Forces is entrusted to the commander, who is also the deputy minister of defense of the PRC. The main control body, through which the commander exercises such leadership, is the headquarters consisting of directorates and departments responsible for a certain activity (operational, intelligence, organizational-mobilization, etc.). The field of activity of the headquarters also includes operational and combat training of troops , their combat use, the organization of command and control, the definition of their combat and material and technical support, the conduct of mobilization measures.
Structurally, the ground forces of the PLA consist of 18 combined arms armies, which in most Western and Chinese sources are called army groups. The latter are divided into seven military districts, which, in turn, are divided into 28 military regions. These groups differ in their structure and size depending on the location, the likely enemy and the tasks facing them and have different categories of readiness. The size of a typical army group ranges from 30 to 50 thousand people. According to this indicator, to some extent it corresponds to the NATO field army, nevertheless yielding to a similar unification of the United States. In a typical version, the Army Group of the PLA Ground Forces comprises up to three mechanized (motorized, rifle) divisions (brigades), one artillery brigade, an air defense brigade, a reconnaissance battalion, one regiment of communications, engineering support, radiation, chemical, biological protection, parts of the logistics and electronic warfare.
The PLA Mechanized Division in its typical staff structure has a number of personnel up to 10 thousand people. It includes three mechanized regiments of three-battalion personnel on armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles and one tank.
The tank division consists of three tank regiments and one mechanized one. The structure of both the mechanized and the tank division includes an artillery regiment, an air defense regiment (battalion), a communications battalion, an engineering battalion, a company of radiation, chemical, and biological defense (RCBZ), a division of material, technical and medical support.
The PLA's mechanized brigade consists of four mechanized battalions, each equipped with 40 armored personnel carriers (APCs) or infantry fighting vehicles (BMP), and a tank battalion equipped with the 41 main battle tank (MBT), including one commander.
The tank brigade includes four tank battalions of three-tier composition (124 OBT) and one mechanized battalion (40 BTR or BMP).
The mechanized and tank brigade consists of an artillery battalion with three batteries (18 self-propelled howitzers and 6 guns in each), an air defense battalion, an engineering company, communications and reconnaissance companies, and a RHBZ unit, as well as technical and medical support.
The artillery brigade has four battalions (three batteries, 48 towed guns in each) and a battalion of self-propelled artillery installations (SAU), which is armed with 18 SAU.
PRIORITY - MOBILITY AND FLEXIBILITY OF MANAGEMENT
At present, the active reorganization of the PLA Ground Forces continues in order to ensure their greater mobility, management flexibility during the conduct of combat operations as part of interspecific groupings of troops. One of the directions of reorganization is the transition to the so-called modular structure, the basis of which becomes the brigade. According to the PLA leadership, it is the brigade structure that makes it possible to create interspecific groups of troops of various configurations in accordance with specific combat missions. Based on the analysis of the experience of the United States and other NATO countries, Chinese military experts have concluded that brigade-level combat units have the optimal structure and the necessary capabilities for strategic deployment and mobility. In addition, Chinese military experts believe that brigade-level formations have a sufficient amount of fire weapons of all types, ensuring the possibility of successfully conducting the entire spectrum of military operations in military conflicts of varying intensity. The brigade structure allows you to vary the set of forces and means, not only depending on the type of hostilities, but also in accordance with the level of intensity of military conflict, as well as climatic conditions and terrain. It is believed that for actions in low-intensity conflicts (counterguerrilla actions) it is optimal to use light-duty brigade formations adapted for conducting combat operations in the jungle or in a mountainous and wooded area. In conflicts of medium and high intensity, it is advisable to use brigades of a heavy type of offensive or defensive composition.
Particularly important when deciding on the transition to building interspecific groupings on a modular basis based on a brigade was given to increasing the mobility and controllability of troops. At the same time, mobility is understood not only as the ability to quickly change positions on the battlefield and carry out maneuver with forces and means in order to change the composition of groups in a single theater of operations (theater of operations), but also as the ability to conduct large inter-theater transfers over long distances.
Simultaneously with the increase in the mobility of the troops, the leadership of the PLA sets the task to substantially increase the number of formations with increased readiness for combat use and greater combat capability as part of the Ground Forces. This, according to the plans of the Chinese military specialists, will make it possible to significantly increase the effectiveness of the actions of the Ground Forces during the operations of interspecific groups.
To date, powerful highly maneuverable forces have been created in the PLA Ground Forces, designed to conduct effective combat operations in any part of the national territory and beyond its borders, primarily in the zones along the perimeter of the PRC borders. In an emergency, they can be transferred to any strategic direction in a short time in order to create groups of troops sufficient to effectively accomplish specific tasks. In the context of the requirements for creating a modular system for building interspecific groupings of troops in army groups, the number of divisions is reduced and the number of brigades increases accordingly. At the same time, in certain areas, where there are favorable conditions for the effective use of divisions, and where the potential enemy has powerful groupings of troops, it is considered expedient to retain part of the troops of the divisional structure.
Along with increasing the mobility of the Ground Forces, the PLA command pays serious attention to the development and introduction of modern combat control, communications, reconnaissance, surveillance (targeting) and computer equipment integrated into a single network complex with information protection equipment. At the same time, new electronic warfare systems are coming into service. Of particular importance is the use of automated command and control systems (ACCS) at various levels. To date, the People's Republic of China has created and applied automatic command and control systems at both strategic (national) and regional, operational and operational-tactical levels. The capabilities of the Quidian automated command and control system for the Televised Television and Radio System have been significantly expanded, providing information flow between the PLA General Headquarters, the headquarters of the armed forces, the armed forces and district commands.
Significant results are also demonstrated at the level of the “military district - army group - division - brigade” level. The troops begin the active development of such a system of "battalion - company - branch (crew, crew)", one of the elements of which are tablet computers that have already begun to be available to the commanders of the units. The transition from experimental to a wider use of ACCS not only significantly increased the controllability of troops, reduced the time for decision-making by commanders to combat, made it easier to plan, increased the level of interaction between different types of troops in united groups, increased the effectiveness of IWT use, but also contributed to the development of innovative methods , forms and methods of warfare.
The political and military leadership of China is gradually moving away from the priority funding of the PLA Ground Forces, noting that they are at least the first among equal to other types of armed forces.
In the last 10 years, the Ground Forces have been actively involved in the process of upgrading weapons and military equipment, and at a significantly higher rate than foreign military experts, including Russian, predicted. By the 2017 – 2018 years, it is planned to bring the number of new and latest systems to 70% IWT. At the same time, the task is to significantly reduce their range, leaving in service multifunctional models of weapons and military equipment with the potential for modernization.
As it is known, in the recent past, there were an unjustifiably large number of weapons and military equipment in service with the Army PLA Ground Forces. This problem has not yet been completely solved. In the fleet of weapons and military equipment of the ground forces of the PLA, there still remains an excess amount of different types of weapons, with a significant part of them belonging to the 1 and 1 + generations.
Tank forces. By the number of tanks, the PLA occupies the 1 place among the armed forces of the major military powers. As of the beginning of the 2015, the PLA Ground Forces had approximately 5900 medium tanks, 640 main battle tanks (MBT), 750 light tanks, 200 reconnaissance.
Infantry. Infantry formations (formations, units) include rifle, motorized, mechanized, tank, artillery, anti-aircraft artillery units (subunits), combat and rear support units. The maneuverable forces of the PLA Ground Forces currently include mainly mechanized formations.
In addition to the tanks, the PLA is equipped with a large number of armored combat vehicles (BBM) of various types and purpose: infantry fighting vehicles (BMP) - 385 012, armored personnel carriers (BTR) - 5020, including tracked - 4150, wheeled - 870.
Rocket troops and artillery of the Ground forces of the PLA include formations that are armed with tactical missiles, multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) of various calibers, artillery guns (cannons, howitzers, mortars), anti-tank guns and anti-tank missile systems, as well as units and units of artillery intelligence.
At the beginning of 2015 years in the missile troops and artillery of the Land Forces of the PLA had more than 13 thousand artillery systems, including self-propelled guns - 2280, towed guns - 6140, combined 120-mm gun-howitzer - 300, multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS. ) - 1872, including self-propelled - 1818 (122-mm - 1643, 300-mm - 175), mortars - 2586 (82-mm and 100-mm). In addition, in service were: self-propelled anti-tank missile systems (ATGW) - 924 units, recoilless guns - 3966 units. (75-mm, 82-mm, 105-mm and 120-mm), anti-tank guns - 1788 units, including self-propelled - 480 units, towed anti-tank guns - 1308 units.
Military air defense (AD) includes the forces and means of reconnaissance of the enemy’s air, warning of the covering troops about its approach, formation and formation of anti-aircraft and anti-aircraft missile artillery, units and electronic warfare units. Forces and means of military air defense destroy aircraft, helicopters, cruise and operational-tactical ballistic missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles and other means of air attack. The most modern means of military air defense can, to a limited extent, solve the missile defense tasks in the theater of operations.
Over the past 10 – 15 years, the PRC has achieved significant success in expanding the combat capabilities of air defense, including its military component. Were developed and put into service modern highly effective means of combat, capable of destroying maneuvering air targets flying at medium, low and ultra-low altitudes. Currently, in addition to the barrel-based anti-aircraft artillery, which has 7376 artillery systems and portable anti-aircraft missile systems (MANPADS), the short-range, medium-range and long-range anti-aircraft systems, the total number of which reaches 296 units, are in service with the Air Defense Forces of the Ground Forces of the PLA.
Land Force Aviation (Army Aviation) or Troop Support Aviation (ARA) is the home of the PLA Ground Forces. It includes aviation military districts, army groups. The main organizational unit is the helicopter brigades (regiments) of mixed composition. They are armed with combat (anti-tank, fire support), multifunctional, transport-combat, troop-landing and special (reconnaissance, rescue, sanitary, control, electronic warfare) helicopters. At the beginning of the 2015 of the PLA Ground Forces aviation, there were 150 combat helicopters (Z-10-90, Z-19-60), multifunctional (multi-purpose) helicopters - 351, transport - more than 338, including heavy (61 units) and medium ( 209).
The PLA Ground Forces also includes Special Operations Forces created in 1988. The reinforced detachments of the Special Operations Forces, each of which can consist of up to 1000 people, are present in all military districts of the PLA. They are subordinate to the commander of these districts. The planning and conduct of operations involving the Special Operations Forces of the Ground Forces of the PLA are carried out by the headquarters of the military districts, which include relevant command and control bodies.
COMPLETED IN THE MILITARY STATES
In terms of their technical equipment, the PLA Ground Forces, in most parameters, came very close to the level of the armies of the advanced military powers. Their mobility increased significantly, their strike power and capabilities of army aviation and air defense increased. Despite the predominance of 1 and 1 + generations in the PLA tank fleet, the main battle tanks of 2 and 2 + generations are replacing them at a rather rapid pace. At the final stage are the work on the creation of the third generation tank. Modern armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles arrive in large numbers. The gap in the saturation of the troops with modern samples of self-propelled cannon artillery was noticeably reduced.
A special place among the artillery systems of the Ground Forces of the PLA is occupied by multiple rocket launchers of various types and purposes. In terms of the level of development and saturation of the rocket artillery, the ground forces of the PLA surpass the armies of the advanced states, including the USA and Russia.
One of the strengths of the PLA Ground Forces is the presence in their composition of a significant number of combat-ready formations staffed by states approaching wartime. China surpasses any large state of the modern world in its mobilization base, more than half of which is a military-trained reserve. China's great achievement is a significant increase in the operational mobility of the PLA Ground Forces. Mobile forces are virtually fully equipped with mechanized formations of high readiness.
The presence of well-trained non-commissioned officers, which provides both exemplary discipline and a high level of individual training of fighters and tactical training units, should also be noted.
The strengths of the PLA Ground Forces should also include the presence of fairly numerous, well-trained and equipped with special weapons, military equipment and equipment of the Special Operations Forces. The special forces of the Ground forces of the PLA can effectively solve their specific tasks in any geographic zones and at any time of the year, including at a great distance from the main forces.
It is impossible to ignore the fact that the PLA Ground Forces have a sufficient number of military training and research institutions that provide high-quality training for military personnel of various levels and conduct active research work in the field of operational art, strategy and tactics, and analyze experience in the use of their troops and armed forces of foreign countries, as well as develop innovative methods and methods of warfare in modern conditions.
The weak sides of the PLA Ground Forces include the clearly insufficient development and small number of army aviation. Despite serious efforts to strengthen this aviation, China in this parameter is still seriously inferior to the armies of the advanced countries of the world.
The lag in technical means of communication, reconnaissance, navigation, target designation has not yet been overcome. The combat capabilities of military air defense / missile defense, as well as electronic warfare units, do not fully meet modern requirements.
The weak points of the PLA Ground Forces should include an excessively wide range of weapons and military equipment of the same type, having the same purpose and similar tactical and technical characteristics. These types of weapons are made by different companies using their specific components and assemblies, which makes for an extremely low level of unification of weapons and military equipment components and significantly complicates their maintenance and repair, especially in combat situations.
One of the serious shortcomings of the PLA Ground Forces is the lack of sufficient experience in conducting large-scale interspecific operations in network-centric hostilities.
It should also be noted that the PLA Ground Forces command is highly dependent on the CPC army political agencies, which exercise strict control over the activities of the troops, which binds the initiative of commanders of all levels and devalues the principle of unity of command.
Despite these shortcomings, which are quickly eliminated, the PLA, having a tremendous advantage in the strength of the Ground Forces, allowing you to create more than 10-multiple superiority in manpower and technology over any potential adversary, can conduct successful operations at any strategic direction along the perimeter of national borders . Moreover, in our opinion, thanks to this overwhelming superiority in numbers, as well as a fairly high level of equipment and combat training, PLA personnel are able to conduct active hostilities and triumph even in two or more theaters of military operations.