Friday, July 31, 2009

Global Times rebuts again.

During the past few weeks, the Chinese internet was buzzing with speculation of a major military reorganization. Rumored organizational changes include merging of the existing seven military regions into four strategic zones, removal of the Senior Colonel rank, increasing the personnel of both the navy and the air force by 20,000 while downsizing the army by as much as 800,000. The reduction of military regions has been suggested from time-to-time since the late 1990s, for example, You Ji’s “The Armed Force of China” also discussed the strategic implication of reorganizing the existing seven military regions into strategic zones. While good arguments were made for such reform, the key point remains very simple -- is the CMC doing it?

I generally reserve a “stop-and-wait” attitude on topics related to the PLA, China, or whatever my wife may “cook” for dinner; it is positive to see Global Times taking a more active role in clarifying speculation so we don’t have to wait too long.

Military reshuffle not likely: analysts

* Source: Global Times
* [07:19 July 31 2009]
* Comments

By Kang Juan

Chinese experts yesterday refuted a report that the country's seven military command regions would be reshuffled into four “strategic zones,” saying the major reform remains at the discussion level because of impracticality and concerns of national stability.

The latest issue of The Mirror, a Hong Kong-based journal, reported that the Chinese military is preparing to reform the system of military regions, as the People's Liberation Army (PLA) marks its 82nd anniversary tomorrow.

According to an unnamed military source, the seven current military regions of Shenyang, Beijing, Lanzhou, Jinan, Nanjing, Guangzhou and Chengdu will be replaced with four strategic zones in the north, east, west and south, the report said.

Each strategic zone would be under the command of a military commission, formed by a joint command of different armed forces and several provincial secretaries in the zone, the source said, adding that the heads of the four military commissions would be assigned by the central authority in Beijing, responsible for the military actions and defense mobilization in the zones under their jurisdiction.

However, a military source who asked to remain anonymous told the Global Times that it was impossible for the Chinese military to carry out such a major reform this year, as maintaining stability is the top priority.

“The main tasks for the Chinese military so far are to maintain stability along the borders and prepare for the military parade on National Day in October,” he said. “Whether and how to carry out the military reform has been discussed among the academics for almost 30 years, but no answers have been reached yet.”

Li Daguang, a military expert at the University of National Defense, ruled out the possibility of any immediate adjustment in the allocation of military regions.

“Relevant discussions have been ongoing for several years. But none of the proposals are mature enough,” Li told the Global Times, citing the complexity of reforming the system.

“The existing system has been in accordance with the national defense situation of China, which pursues a national defense policy that is purely defensive in nature,” Li argued.

The 2.3 million-strong PLA, under the top command of the Central Military Commission, oversees seven military regions nationwide as administrative headquarters responsible for making plans for troop development, commanding joint operations of different armed forces and guaranteeing joint logistics in several provinces.

Chen Zhou, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Military Sciences, noted that the division of China's military regions is based on administrative divisions, geographic locations, directions of strategic campaign and combat missions.

“The allocation of military regions usually changes with the troops' development and domestic and external environments,” Chen noted.

In private talks, military personnel were often heard talking about the urgency of a reform, as the current divide of seven military regions “appears to be redundant,” and “not up to the demand of modern military mobilization or deployment.”

The views were reflected in heated discussions among military aficionados on the Internet. A Web user wrote on a military forum that the army has been the main decision power in each military region, while the navy and air forces were always sidelined, which the user said isn't good for the military modernization of China.

Some Web users also doubted the efficiency of the division system, as the coordination among several regions is quite inconvenient.

However, military insiders told the Global Times that a major reform is hard to formulate, as the combination of some regions will mean the move of too many personnel and facilities, which might cause problems.

There have been several adjustments in the division of military regions since the foundation of the People's Republic of China.

Originally, six military regions were established in 1950. That number rose to 13 in the late 1950s and was reduced to 11 in 1968. Mao Zedong, the former leader of China, decided to exchange the positions of commanders in eight military regions in 1973. The current divide of seven regions dates back to 1985 when the country initiated a major demobilization of a million servicemen.

In another development, the official bilingual website of the Ministry of National Defense (MND) is expected to launch tomorrow, on the Chinese Army's 82nd birthday. The site is meant to be a channel for China to express and elaborate its military policy and release information of activities.

Admiral Timothy Keating, commander of the US forces in the Pacific region, praised the move Tuesday.

“This goes with our desire for more transparency and better understanding of Chinese military intentions,” Keating said.

On Tuesday, the military also offered 90 foreign journalists a visit to its Third Guard Division, a motorized infantry force that safeguards Beijing. The move was interpreted by Reuters as China's military cautiously trying out new openness.

Rear Admiral Yang Yi, a senior military expert at the University of National Defense, said the army is displaying increased confidence, transparency and openness by a series of military exchanges and diplomatic activities.

“It is conducive for China to convey its message of peaceful development and gradually dispel concerns about its military intentions from its Asian neighbors and Washington,” Yang said.

Qiu Wei and Liang Chen contributed to this story

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Just a bunch J-10 mid-air refuel photos in case you are looking for desktop wallpapers.

Their state-of-the-art birds are training over the ocean instead of across the mountain......

Monday, July 27, 2009

PLAAF 26th Specialized Division preparing for the big Oct 1st national day parade.

Back in April 14th, I blogged about the PLAAF 26th Specialized Division (Here) and for pass few weeks Chinese internet has been buzzing with photos of the 26th leading the formation fly over practice.
Internet fan boys generally do not pay much attention to AWAC deployments as they are not as “sexy” as Jet fighters and bombers, but they are the nerve center that connects all PLAAF operations including "dog-and-pony" shows, I bet militaries around China are monitoring them like a hawk.

KL-2000 and KL-200 AWAC of the 76th EW Regiment

Z-8K and Z-8KA of the 78th S&R Regiment

Saturday, July 25, 2009

PLA’s Response to the May 12th Earthquake – An assessment

Here is an article I wrote one year ago, enjoy.

PLA’s Response to the May 12th Earthquake – An assessment

(Special thanks to Michael Little and William Murray)

A major earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richer Scale jolted southwest China's Sichuan Province at 2:28 p.m. on Monday, May 12th, 2008. With more than 70,000 deaths, this earthquake was one of the largest natural disasters to hit China in recent memory. The Chinese government’s reaction to this disaster was swift, with tens of thousands of troops dispatched to the area within a short period of time with reactions from the highest echo of the civilian leadership, most noticeably Prime Minster Wen Jiabao[1]. This was coupled with aggressive media coverage, making it a major departure from China's past tendency to control media access during crises. Because of these two factors, this terrible disaster gives analysts both inside and outside of China a real opportunity to assess the PLA’s operational capabilities. While no one questioned the PLA’s dedication and enthusiasm, some veteran PLA watchers were “underwhelmed” [2] by what they saw. That sentiment is shared by this author as well.

This paper is an attempt to assess and summarize the PLA’s reaction and performance by using the PLA’s own released news and reports to review what lessons can be drawn from the official response to this natural disaster.

The Force Deployment Timeline:

The following timeline of the PLA’s deployments in response to the earthquake is compiled from official sources.

When the earthquake occurred, local PLA units stationed at and near Sichuan started to repair roads and carried out rescue and relief operations. According to the PLA Daily[3] an armored regiment of the Chengdu Military Region (MR) raced to Beichuan County, and an artillery regiment headed straight for Wenchuan County immediately after the quake occurred. The official report states that they were mobilized immediately on orders from General Li Shiming, commander of Chengdu MR, as part of a pre-planned emergency procedure activated after a direct communication from President Hu Jintao. During the first hours after the quake more than 6100 troops from the surrounding regions of Chengdu MR were also ordered to the disaster area. Local commanders of the Lanzhou MR additionally mobilized 5,000 offices and men into rescue relief operations in the southern part of Gansu Province [4] where the earthquake had caused significant damage.

[1] Andrew Jacobs “In China quake, apotheosis of ‘Grandpa Wen’ International Herald Tribune (last accessed 8/13/2007)
[2] Jake Hooker, “Unearthed in quake: Flaws in Chinese military capability” International Herald Tribune (last accessed June 30th 2008)
[3] Large numbers of troops arrive at quake-hit areas PLA Daily Online Edition (last access June 30th 2008)
[4] Ibid

None of the news reports released on the first day (May 12th) mentioned CMC, and this is a good indication that the special law on emergency management that passed last year, which allows regional network of emergency management offices to report directly to the State Council, is having an effect [5]. While CMC’s Leading Group Office (LGO) for Earthquake Rescue and Relief Work was established on the morning of May 13th to coordinate the actions of troops in earthquake rescue and relief operations under the command of Chen Bingdu, members of the CMC and the chief of general staff of the PLA [6] , some high readiness rate units from different regions had already arrived in Chengdu, including 300 troops from the 127th Light Mechanized Infantry Division of the Jinan MR and the first batch of airborne troops. This totaled 6500 troops by 16:00 on May 13th [7].

May13th saw the largest airlift in a single day in PLA history with 11,420 troops flown in by 12 civilian passenger airliners and 22 military transports[8], thus pushing the number of troops arriving in the quake area to almost 20,000. This was in addition to 15,600 of the military reserves and militia, and 5000 People’s Armed Police (PAP), with 30,000 more en route [9] .

By 22:00 May 14th, 81,000 PLA and 14,000 PAP personnel were engaged in the rescue and relief operations [10] . Of those 81,000 PLA troops, there were 4,000 airborne, 2,600 Marine, Naval, and Air Force personnel, and troop units directly affiliated with the CMC’s four general headquarters/departments. The PAP troops were mostly from Sichuan and Chongqing contingents.[11] Some GongAn (Unarmed Police) from outside of Sichuan provided an additional 1,000 personnel, charged with the job of enforcing public security. [12]

[5] Peter Ford “China moves quickly in quake zone’ The Christian Science Monitor (last accessed June 20, 2008)
[6] Dong Qiang “PLA leading group for earthquake rescue and relief work set up” PLA Daily Online Edition (last accessed July 14th 2008)

[7] Large numbers of troops arrive at quake-hit areas.
[8] “Chinese Army's largest airlift to take 11,420 troops to quake-hit province” PLA Daily Online Edition (last accessed July 14th 2008)

[9] Almost 20,000 soldiers arrive in quake-hit SW China, 30,000 more coming PLA Daily Online Edition (last accessed July 14th 2008)

[10] “Facts and figures about disaster relief work by PLA and APF on May 14” PLA Daily Online Edition (last accessed July 14th 2008)
[11] Fei Boyu “Chinese PLA and APF sends 95,000 troops to quake-hit areas” PLA Daily Online Edition (last accessed July 14th 2008)

[12] “6 public security special police officers arrived to carry out duties” The Ministry of Public Security of PRC (last accessed 7/1/2008)

On 08:00 May 15th, the number of troops engaged in rescue and relief operates reached 130,000. 28,000 troops arrived in 21 trains, along with 157 railcars of rescue machinery and ambulances, seven railcars of oil and 69 railcars of steel and other materials. The number of medical teams reached 72, composed of some 2,160 military doctors and assistants [13]. 6,800 PLA parachutists were in Deyang and Mianzhu cities and Wenchuan County, to help relief work.

By 22:01 May 16th, 61 PLA helicopters had arrived at the quake-hit Sichuan Province with fifteen additional helicopters from civilian agencies. On May 15, Premier Wen Jiabao ordered 90 more helicopters (60 military and 30 civilian) for rescue missions. [14]

As of 17:00 May 17th, more than 148,000 military troops, armed police, militia and reservists were engaged in rescue operations. 10,000 unarmed police from 28 Chinese cities also contributed to the rescue operation [15]

Rapid Reaction:

Judging from official media reports, there are aspects of the PLA’s reaction that seem to confirm a number of theories brought forward by PLA watchers over the years regarding the PLA’s chain-of-command during an emergency. These held that the PLA has a number of Rapid Reaction Units (RRU) stationed throughout China that will be activated and placed directly under a single centralized command created from CMC’s General Staff Department (GSD) in response to an emergency.

The PLA’s initial response seems to confirm those theories in which designated RRUs such as the 15th Airborne Corps, PLA Marines, 149th Mechanized Infantry Division, elements of the 38th and 39th Group Armies (GA), strategic units from Jinan MR such as the 127th Light Mechanized Infantry Division (LMID), and 58th Mechanized Infantry Brigade and 60th Motorized Infantry Brigade of 20th GA, were activated within the first 12 hours. The above list of RRU should come as no surprise to anyone who watches the PLA as many previous reports portray their RRU roles[16] .

[13] “130,000 troops in rescue operations throughout quake area” Daily Online Edition (last accessed July 14th 2008)

[14] “Chinese premier orders deployment of 90 more helicopters for quake relief” People’s Daily Online Edition (last accessed June 12, 2008)

[15] “GongAn dispatch an additional 5000 more police to the Sichuan disaster zone ” The Ministry of Public Security of PRC (last accessed 7/1/2008)

[16] Dennis Blasko wrote number of good articles related to PLA’s RRUs including:
"PLA Force Structure: A 20-Year Retrospective," in Seeking Truth from Facts, ed. James C. Mulvenon and Andrew N.D. Yang (Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 2001) and “The Chinese Army Today: Tradition and Transformation for the 21st Century” Routledge, 2005.

Initially, RRUs were operating from their contingency plans instead of a centralized command and confusion did occur; for example, the 127th LMID were to be transported to Sichuan by rail, but the action plan was changed to airlift from Luoyang Airport after it was realized that railroad lines were out of commission because of the large number of tunnels collapsed from the quake . [17] It took Premier Jiabao less than two hours to board an airplane and head to the quake zone, but the CMC’s LGO, it was not operational until the morning of May 13th to serve as the centralized command for PLA.

But what we really saw:

The lack of heavy airlift transports was a much discussed topic within China and on the PLA Daily’s own online discussion forums, as the PLA relied heavily on civilian airlines for personnel transportation [18] and reserved its 14 Il-76 heavy transports for specialized purposes such as telecommunication devices, ambulances, tents, medical supplies, etc.[19] Two of the Il-76s were dispatched to Beijing to pick up an emergency rescue team with 150 members and 12 search and rescue dogs from an engineering regiment of the 38th Group Army[20] at 22:30 on May 12th. That rescue team is considered China’s best and has taken part in nine earthquake rescue operations including four outside of China (Algeria, Iran, Indonesia and Pakistan). Sadly, it is the only one in China[21] .

[17] Civilian airlines assemble for the arrival of a Mechanized Infantry Division in Luoyang Airport Xinhua News (last accessed July 14th 2008)

[18] Xu Sihai “PLA makes large-scale requisition of civil aircraft for the first time” PLA Daily Online Edition (last accessed June 12, 2008)

[19] Fei Boyu “Three characteristics in disaster relief” PLA Daily Online Edition (last accessed June 12, 2008)
[20] “Beijing MR Engineering Regiment: 150 personal and 12 search dogs send to quake zone” PLA Daily Online Edition (last accessed June 12, 2008)

[21] Ibid

The fourteen Russian-built IL-76 heavy transports were far from sufficient in addressing PLA’s airlift needs, and the PLA Daily’s own discussion forum, surprisingly, became the home of the loudest critics. It will impossible to argue that CMC does not realize this shortage exists, as General Cao Guangchuan personally ordered an additional 38 cargo versions of the IL-76 transport back in 2005, however the deal fell though due to delivery delays and pricing issues[22]. During the three years before the quake, there was no major attempt to beef up the fleet with the cheaper, although somewhat less capable, locally-made Y-8 military cargo plane.

While large numbers of troops arrived to the quake zone very quickly they were not properly equipped, some armed only with spades, and newspaper articles are filled with stories about how troops picked at debris with their hands.

[22] “Russia Scrambles to Save China Plane Contract” Defense News (last accessed September 16th 2006)

Search Party of 127th LMID…………armed only with flashlights.

Not until day three, when heavier equipment finally arrived to the quake zone, did the situation began to change. But, by then, the first 36 so-called golden hours had passed and chances of finding survivors quickly faded. This lack of heavy equipment really handicapped the rescue effort during the first hours of the earthquake. As noted before, an armored regiment of the Chengdu Military Region (MR) was sent to Beichuan. However, they were not able to reach the razed town with their vehicles as all the roads were heavy damaged, hence and had to walk there on foot. The road was not reopened until 18:00 on May 15th when an emergency engineering unit of the Second Artillery arrived, with heavy construction equipment such as large excavators, loaders, mobile power-supply vehicles and portable power-supply stations.[23]

The lack of real-time intelligence gathering capabilities also handicapped the PLA’s search for survivors. Looking at photos released by the both foreign and Chinese media, there was no attempt to take advantage of UAVs currently in service with the PLA to track down survivors trapped in remote mountainous regions. While PLA airborne forces conducted some dangerous airdrops and reconnaissance in very poor weather in their attempt to search remote survivors, without good intelligence their efforts were not as successful as they should have been.

[23] Wang Yongxiao and Xia Hongqing “Quake-damaged road from Mianzhu to Beichuan opens to traffic” PLA Daily Online Edition (last accessed June 12, 2008)

Rescuer calling for more Beidou GPS [24]

There are only two aerial photographic airplanes in service with the Surveying and Mapping Bureau of the PLA General Staff Headquarters [25], which hardly seems enough. China also utilized 15 indigenous satellites to help with the quake relief effort[26] but that a request was made to the US for additional satellite images clearly showed the shortcomings of the Chinese systems. The PLA also faced difficulties in evacuating survivors once they were located, as all the roads were damaged and only the PLA Marines were equipped with speedboats and pontoons that were capable of moving them out along the waterways.

[24] Sichuan Mianzhou: Beidou call “Come to me, it is critical here” People’s Daily Online (last accessed July 23, 2008)
[25] Liu Jihong and Ma Dong “Aerial surveying and mapping offers precise geographical information” PLA Daily Online Edition (last accessed June 12, 2008)

[26] “15 Chinese satellites in space help with quake relief efforts” PLA Daily Online Edition (last accessed June 12, 2008)
[27] David Morgan “China seeks US satellite data on quake” Reuters (last accessed June 18, 2008)

The coordination between search parties of the 15th Airborne Corps and the transportable troops of the PLA Marines was not smooth during the first few days, so by May 19th the CMC had sent an additional 170,000 sets of radios to the troops with 62,000 sets arriving on that day[28] . While the coordination between different PLA units experienced difficulty, communications and support between PLA and PAP seemed almost nonexistent in the early stage of the rescue work and the PLA did not seem too interested in sharing some of the supplies. For example, while the PLA’s General Logistic Department dismissed fears of a food supply shortage, boasting that 300,000 daily field rations were airdropped and hot food were available,[29] there were a number of reports that PAP personnel had only cold steamed buns, yams and dry noodles to eat.

[28] Dong Zhaohui “PLA general headquarters/departments send radio sets to relief troops” PLA Daily Online Edition (last accessed June 12, 2008)

[29] “China dismisses worries of food supplies for armed forces in rescue operations” PLA Daily Online Edition (last accessed July 12, 2008)

HongKong’s TVB reported PAP had only steamed buns and yams to eat

Another item relating to shortfalls that drew much criticism within the PLA and the Chinese press during this earthquake was the lack of transport helicopters. At its peak, the PLA mobilized close to 150 helicopters out of a total of 500 available.[30] Even at that, 150 helicopters were not sufficient to handle all the critical work. To most economically employ this small fleet of important assets, the LGO ordered helicopters to be concentrated in the airdrop of drugs, food, drinking water, garments and quilts, and tents to meet the survivors' needs; and in the evacuation of wounded persons.[31] However, they were thus not available for troops transport, communication and other logistic needs.

[30] “Chinese generals discloses the Army Aviation Force to the Foreign Military Officers” Xinhui News (last accessed July 23, 2008)

[31] Fei Boyu “Three characteristics in disaster relief” PLA Daily Online Edition (last accessed June 12, 2008)

Lessons learned:

The PLA did the best they could with the limited assets they had, and no one with their right mind would question their dedication and enthusiasm. To continue the tradition of

“seek truth from facts,” this horrible natural disaster provides a long list of items the CMC must improve on. On June 19, in the aftermath of the earthquake, the PLA launched its first drill for long-range air drops in emergency situations with the following stated goal:

“The drill was designed to train and test the ability of the PLA to mobilize military and civilian aircraft to transport and air drop materials and rescue forces in emergency situations……… The Chinese military has upgraded the importance of the PLA's long-range airborne ability after the Sichuan quake when most of the overland rescue forces were stranded by rock and mud slides on the way to epicenter.” [32]

It also hosted a critical care medicine conference to “sum up preliminary experience of medical assistance of the PLA in quake recues and relief operation” [33] Other studies are also being carried out. [34] In late July, the CMC also added training on Military Operations Other Than War (MOOTW) into their new doctrine, the Outline of Military Training and Evaluation (OMTE)[35].

China also realized that natural disasters might be too large for a single government to handle and on June 13th, China called for an “ASEAN+3 (China, Japan, the Republic of Korea) workshop on disaster relief by armed forces” to help in reaching a basic consensus on disaster relief, to step up cooperation, [36] and develop a plan of Standard Operating Procedures for armed forces in humanitarian operations in coordination with UN humanitarian organizations and other international assistance organizations [37].

If there one thing PLA learned, it is that they no longer have do everything alone and accepting foreign help might not be a sign of weakness, but rather a proof of strength.

[32] “PLA launches first drill for long-range air drops in emergency situations” PLA Daily Online Edition (last accessed July 20, 2008)
[33] Sun Lihua “PLA second critical care medicine conference held in Changchun” PLA Daily Online Edition (last accessed July 20, 2008)

[34] Guo Jiangshan “Quake-rescue-and-relief subjects study carried out” PLA Daily Online Edition (last accessed July 20, 2008)

[35] Liu Feng'an “New Outline of Military Training and Evaluation promulgated” PLA Daily Online Edition (last accessed July 25, 2008)

[36] “ASEAN+3 workshop on disaster relief urges more co-op” PLA Daily Online Edition (last accessed July 20, 2008)
[37] “China proposes disaster relief cooperation plan at 10+3 workshop” PLA Daily Online Edition (last accessed July 20, 2008)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Ministry of National Defense (MND) will launch an official bilingual website on Aug 1

As a long time reader of the PLA daily, I have seen a slow but steady improvement over the years in the information made available on that site. The new Chinese Ministry of National Defense (MND) website would be a welcome addition to the sport of PLA watching (debating the difference between doctrine and strategy in the context of A2/AD can really work up a sweat). However, the new site will still remain a “communist mouthpiece” if we apply US terminology or “gateway to the US Pentagon” if we use the PRC terminology. In that light, I’d expect the MND to release an annual report entitled "Military Power of the United States of America." And then maybe, the US DOD would issue ritualized rebuttal.

New website gives insight into army
By Li Xiaokun and Cui Xiaohuo (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-07-23 06:51

The Ministry of National Defense (MND) will launch an official bilingual website on Aug 1.

New website gives insight into army

The move, military experts say, is a leap forward for the Chinese army, which is attempting to be more transparent and focus more on "public diplomacy".

The launch of the site, in Chinese and in English, is meant to allow more access to the People's Liberation Army (PLA).

Senior Colonel Huang Xueping, deputy director-general of the MND's information office, said yesterday that the website will operate on a trial basis. The start date marks the 82nd anniversary of the founding of the 2.3-million-strong PLA.

Access to the PLA has been limited to tightly controlled reports that have appeared in a handful of media organizations.

Analysts and web users have hoped that a portal similar to the US Pentagon's "Defense Link" would be established so that regular information could be disseminated about China's effort to modernize its army.
"The launch of the MND website is a major step for the PLA to open up to the outside world," said Huang, in an exclusive interview with China Daily.

"As the Chinese army develops, the army has valued diplomacy with foreign militaries and has paid great attention to informing the public of China's defense policies and troop images through the platform we established."

The official did not elaborate on the website's contents, but web editors running the official site said the portal will "cover a large amount of information", featuring both regular activities and background about the Chinese army.

"We hope the website is as informative as Defense Link, the gateway to the US Pentagon," one editor said.

The Chinese army in recent years has sped up military-to-military exchanges with foreign troops and eased up on its reluctance to release information about the PLA's forces.

The navy's anti-piracy fleet also shared intelligence with other nations' naval fleets, including the US and Japan, during its historic mission to guard Chinese and foreign merchant ships against the threat of pirates off the coast of Somalia.

China has sent three contingents of warships to the troubled region since last December, joining the naval forces of about 20 nations in combating piracy.
The PLA invited 29 naval delegations to the coastal city of Qingdao in April for a grand fleet review and naval exchanges to mark the navy's 60th anniversary.

Foreign military attaches were also invited to a missile base near Beijing in April.
And many will be on hand to observe the weapons display at Tiananmen Square during a military parade marking the country's 60th National Day on Oct 1.

"It is a welcome development, definitely, and we look forward to knowing what will be the content on display on the official website," said Lieutenant Colonel Puneet Ahuja, deputy defense attache of the Indian embassy in China.

"As more attention is being given to online information, the Chinese army has moved one step forward in its public diplomacy," said Professor Li Xiguang, an advocate of press officers for China's cabinet and ministries and executive dean of Tsinghua University's School of Journalism and Communication in Beijing.

Huang said the MND is working to improve its press release mechanism. He said information offices will be established at more military institutions nationwide.

The army's official newspaper reported that the first group of "press officers", selected from different armed forces, graduated from a boot camp on public relations in March.

"We may consider making more regular press briefings in the future while keeping contacts with domestic and overseas media organizations in Beijing," said Huang. "The aim is to release information on China's defense and military modernization to create a better understanding of the Chinese military."

Peng Kuang contributed to the story

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

J-10B pre-production

Thanks Deino for this detailed comparison between the prototype model and pre-production model of the J-10B and you can tell, there are minor differences between those two. The locations of two small antennas under the nose IRST (Infra-red search and track) is one of the most visible sign.

As a side note, the pro-production J-10B photo Deino used was mirrored and here is the original photo.

Isn't me or J-10 B is ugly.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Return of the Golf Class ballistic missile conventional powered submarine.

PLAN’s single Golf class BAMmer (a term coined by our friend Desperado6) was believed to be decommissioned and has not been seem in public for sometime. It is back with new screws and paint job.

Such an extensive refit clearly suggests it is not gearing as a tourist attraction at a local museum.

Oh, I promise, I won’t make any Tiger Wood jokes.

GOLF [G-Class]

Initial Chinese efforts to create a sea-launched nuclear-missile system used two large Project 629 GOLF missile-armed diesel-electric submarines and seven R-11F liquid-propellant missiles which had been transferred from the USSR in the early 1960's. But work on these sea-launched missiles encountered a vaariety of problems.

In 1967 American intelligence sources identified a G-class submarine being constructed/assembled at Lu-ta Shipyard and later based at Hsiao-ping Tao Naval Base. It measured 320 feet in length.

By the early 1970's China recognized that continuation of the Project 629 effort was pointless. Chinese development of a nuclear powered ballistic missile submarine began with a single GOLF class submarine. This conventionally powered ballistic missile boat was committed as a test platform role in developing a new missile of Chinese design. By 1972 US intelligence had evidence of land based ejection facilities as well as construction of an off-shore tube launcher for underwater ejection tests.

The JL-2 program is using the former Soviet Golf-class SSB conventionally powered ballistic missile submarines as its trials platform.

Here are some older photos of the golf from my collection.


PLA a fighter bomber went down(fbc-1/JH-7) at the Military Exercise,two plilots died.

News of the crash reported from Russia

Chinese plane land-crashes at Russian-Chinese military exercise
19.07.2009, 14.09

MOSCOW, July 19 (Itar-Tass) - Chinese troops suffered a loss at the joint Russian-Chinese exercise “Peace Mission-2009”: a two-seater warplane land-crashed during the second joint training session of the two countries’ troops. Both pilots died, Itar-Tass learnt on Sunday from a reliable military source.

“A plane of the Chinese Air Force, flying to inflict a strike on a land target at an altitude of around 200 metres, lost speed, tilted to one side, land-crashed and exploded. Both pilots – officers of the Chinese Air Force – died,” the source noted.

According to a preliminary appraisal, “a blunder in piloting” was the reason for the disaster.

Here is a Xinhua news report.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

East Sea Fleet Turning "Blue"?

As expected, the PLAN has deployed its third taskforce to the Gulf of Aden to fight pirates and protect shipping in that region. What is not expected is that the third taskforce is composed of one FFG-529 Zhoushan, one FFG-530 Xuzhou and a supply ship (886 Qiandaohu) from the East Sea fleet (Here). Conventional wisdom suggests that the PLAN would focus its attention in turning the South Sea Fleet from a “green-water” into a true “blue-water” fleet. The previous deployments of the South Sea Fleet to the Gulf of Aden are proven ground for the PLAN’s sailors. The South Sea Fleet, as Bussert stated in his June 2009 SIGNAL article, is “the tip of the Chinese navy spear and they are they are taking on more diverse and far-reaching missions.”

I also subscribe to that wisdom.

Looking at PLAN’s North Sea Fleet’s recent comprehensive military drill near Okinawa (here) and the deployment of the East Sea Fleet to Gulf of Aden may be signaling a shift in PLAN policy as they might be ready to have all three fleets come out of the “island chains” so people will accept them as they are. No longer are they a continental power bounded by land, but rather a seafaring trade partner with a strong navy protecting its interests. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

The East Sea Fleet also conducted a military drill near Okinawa back in May 2007 and while its naval base in Zhoushan received much less media attention compared to South Sea Fleet’s “Dr. Evil Secret Lair” in Hainan. The Zhoushan base also underwent upgrades to accomplish the four Russian Sovremenny Class DDGs and the four newly built Type054 FFGs based there as part of the third Destroyer-Frigate Dadui. The PLAN also stationed all their Russian import (including the Kilo class Submarines) into a single area to consolidate Russian support and maintenance assets. On paper the East Sea Fleet can be a powerful ocean-going taskforce, but its primary focus remains Taiwan. It will be interesting to see if the current deployment to Gulf of Aden is a “one-time-deal” or the beginning of a policy shift.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Y-9 Tactical Transport Aircraft program back on track?

According to Shanfei’s press release posted on its website (,1.html) the Y-9 dual-purpose Tactical Transport Aircraft project has been restarted. Shanfei upper management acknowledged elements that caused the delay of this important project. They included: unbalanced department workload, lack of research capability, project planning, funding, in addition to a shortage of parts, limited parts assembly lines and final assembly, and limited test flight capabilities. There were also technology limitations, frequent accidents due to low safety standards, poor quality control, undefined procedures and poor production work flows that led to a serious delay of the project.
Here are the words in Shanfei’s press release and judging from the language used AVIC, Shanfei’s parent company, must be getting hard on them.

大运研制按计划要求正常推进。但 由于任务繁重、研发能力和资源不足,对现场生产组织提出挑战,多项工作进度不同程度滞后;零件生产、部装、总装、试飞等能力未填平补齐,受现场技术质量问 题处理影响,生产不畅,任务不均衡,严重影响产品交付效率;因违反程序、操作规程等原因,多次发生质量、安全事故,安全生产形势严峻

The Y-9 Tactical Transport Aircraft, or YunShuji-9 project, was reported back in 2001 as an enlarged version of the PLA’s workhorse Y-8 transport: a Chinese version of the C-130 Hercules with an airdrop payload capability of 20,000kg or 100 paratroopers. The older Y-8 had a max airdrop payload of 13,200kg. The Y-9 has a built-in RoRo ramp for quick offloads/airdrops. It will also have a max range of 3000km, allowing it to reach most of China from Wuhan—the central city in China and also home to the 15th airborne army. Strategically, this allows the Chinese military a quick reaction to any trouble spot and is one of the reasons why the Y-9 project is so important. Also, it lessens the reliance on Russia for transport aircraft, even though it is not in the same class as the Russian Il-76’s payload of 50,000 to 88,000kg. But the Y-9 is a homegrown and inexpensive solution that is capable of dropping armor such as ZBD03/ZLC2000 Airborne Infantry Fighting Vehicle. The PLA’s order for 36 Il-76s placed in 2005 is still under negotiation.
Now that the project is seriously behind schedule, it will not be surprising to see management changes take place at Shanfei.

Official photo from Shanfei

Y-9 display model and artist impression:

ZBD03/ZLC2000 Airborne Infantry Fighting Vehicle being loaded into an IL-76

Two airborne buggies loaded into an older Y-8

Monday, July 13, 2009

Peace Mission 2009 -- PLA Weapons

Looking at the weapons list the PLA is bringing to this exercise, I so want to play Steel Panthers III Brigade Command: 1939-1999 again.

Such display of heavy armor seems somewhat out of place in light of China's current security requirement. To the East is the mountainous terrain of Korea, jungles to the South and yet more mountains to the West and there is an island somewhere. The only tank-suitable terrain is Russia. Oh yeah, I got it, they want to invade Russia with help from the Russians!

Type 89 (YW531) (ZSD89) Command APC

Type86B (WZ501) (ZBD86) IFV

Type 99A (WZ123) (ZTZ99) MBT

PTL02 6x6 Wheeled Self-Propelled 100mm Assaulter

Type 89 (PLZ89) ((WZ/WMZ322) 122mm Self-Propelled Howitzer

WZ-9 Attack Helicopter

WZ-9 Light Attack/Scot Helicopter

Mi-171 Transport Helicopter