Chapter 1 New-generation Military Equipment of the PLA Ground Force
Division of Chinese Politics, Military and Warfighting Concepts
Jyh-Shyang Sheu Assistant Research Fellow
While the development of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy, Air Force, and Rocket Force has been in the spotlight, group troops, including the Ground Force and Navy Marine Corps, still play an important role for China as a traditional land power.
After the military reforms in 2015, the percentage of the Ground Force in the PLA has been reduced further to below 50%. As mentioned in the white paper entitled “2019 China’s National Defense in the New Era”, in addition to the reduction in the percentage of the Ground Force in the PLA. the original 18 group armies were consolidated into 13 group. Meanwhile, the organization was transformed into the flat structure of “corps-brigade-battalion”. In accordance with the commands of “mobile operations and multi-dimensional defense and attack”, the PLA has transformed its Ground Force from a “regional defense type” to a “trans-theater operation type” and continued to elevate its capabilities for precise, multi-dimensional, trans-theater, multi-functional, and sustainable operations.
In the meantime, the PLA Navy Marine Corps have been growing at an alarming rate in recent years. The number of brigades was increased from two to seven in 2017 by partially restructuring the Ground Force. One of the fastest-growing troops, it is equipped with navy, sea, air, and land capabilities, as it includes Aviation and Special Forces. Given its high delivery capabilities, the PLA Navy Marine Corps deserves the same high level of attention. According to Xi Jinping’s comment on October 13, 2020 during an inspection, the PLA Navy Marine Corps focuses on the sovereignty over the lands and oceans it claims and the protection of overseas interests. As far as the development direction is concerned, the PLA Navy Marine Corps stresses that it should be “integrated and versatile in operation, swift in response, and capable of fighting under multi-dimensional conditions”. That said, the PLA Ground Force is still considered the long-term amphibious leading force in the attack on Taiwan. On the other hand, the PLA Navy Marine Corps is more focused on rapid projections, possibly responsible for establishing and enhancing the stronghold after landing operations so that heavy armies can press further.
The abovementioned two ground forces both emphasize the “trans-theater operations” capability. Broadly speaking, the PLA’s “trans-theater operations” cover the conventional warfare, as well as network-electronic warfare and cognitive warfare. Therefore, the PLA emphasizes innovation in “long-range capability”, “information-firepower integration warfare”, “precise strike”, and “low altitude operations”. In addition to command and control, network-electronic warfare, and battlefield situational awareness that have been highlighted in recent years, the PLA Ground Force also stresses long-range precision strike, air assaults, and light mobility forces. Given its emphasis on information warfare, the PLA Ground Force focuses on the development of information technology and “information-firepower integration warfare”. This development includes such as by using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), to assistanse for target acquisitions or command control, network warfare, and enhancement of battlefield situational awareness.
With the Taiwan Strait in the middle, the PLA Ground Force can only directly attack Taiwan initially with the new long-range mutable rocket launcher. However, the invasion and occupation by ground troops remain one of the key routes to victory in the invasion of Taiwan. Therefore, Taiwan should still keep a close eye on China’s development of ground equipment to ensure effective resistance with defense planning and military deployment. This chapter will be centered on the aforesaid long-range firepower, air assault, and mobility in the exploration of the PLA’s key development of ground equipment.
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