PLA sets up joint defence units near Indian border
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has, for the first time, inducted the army’s air defence units in its air force command chain in a region which borders India to form a combined air defence system.
The setting up of the new, joint system is part of the Chinese WTC’s (Western Theatre Command) focus on war preparation and exploring the establishment of a joint air defence system, the PLA’s mouthpiece, PLA Daily reported on Tuesday.
The Western Theatre Command is responsible for the border with India, and continues large-scale deployment in the region – despite partial disengagement -- amid the year-long border friction in eastern Ladakh.
The mouthpiece called the new formation “a solid step… taken in the joint combat and joint training.”
The new system was tried out at a drill in the western theatre, the report said without sharing details about the location.
The high-level exercise was a drill for checking the combat readiness of the army’s air defence forces but the orders, during the drill, were given by the PLA’s air force command stationed in the area -- a likely first for PLA.
According to a senior officer of the WTC’s Air Force Staff Headquarters, more than 10 army air defence force units have entered the PLA Air Force (PLAAF) command chain in the WTC to share early warning information, to test combat readiness, to participate in major exercises and, overall, to form a “preliminary alliance”.
“The integration of air defence across services and arms is a solid step to deepen joint operations,” the PLA Daily article said.
The WTC’s air force took the initiative to implement joint operations and organised troops from ground defence, radar and communications to “…work together with army commanders to tackle key problems, unify information interfaces, and formulate relevant standards and specifications.”
The formation of the joint command is in line with a military training order issued by President Xi Jinping, also the head of the Central Military Commission (CMC), in January.
The order said that military training in 2021 will focus on actual combat training to raise combat readiness, joint command and joint specialised training, new equipment and force training, and operational system of systems integration training.
Xi had then said that PLA must be ready to “act at any second” as the armed forces had kicked off the year’s military training and drills in January”.
“[PLA must] increase the integration of new equipment, new forces and new combat realms into training and combat systems,” Xi was quoted in reports as saying.
Following the formation of the new system, the changes in training modules have enabled the joint combat and joint training at all levels to be launched and improved simultaneously, Tuesday’s PLA Daily article said.
In the final analysis, whether an army can win modern wars is determined by the level, level, and effectiveness of joint training, it added.
Last week, state media reported that PLA deployed advanced rocket launchers with an artillery brigade stationed above 17,000 feet in the WTC.
The front-page article published in the PLA Daily said the brigade is located more than 5,200 metres above sea level in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) but did not share its exact location.
India and China have held several rounds of diplomatic and military talks to resolve the nearly year-long friction along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh.
The 10th meeting of the senior military commanders was held on February 20 after the two sides completed the withdrawal of frontline troops with armoured formations and artillery from the banks of Pangong Lake.
However, subsequently, the two sides were unable to make progress on efforts to disengage from other friction points such as Gogra, Hot Springs and Depsang Plains.
The 11th round of military talks held on April 9 failed to resolve the differences.
At the end of the 11th round, Beijing said the Chinese military will maintain diplomatic communication with its Indian counterpart to jointly safeguard peace and stability in the border region.
“China hopes the Indian side can cherish the positive trend of de-escalation in the region and uphold the consensus reached by previous meetings, and work together with China to safeguard peace and tranquillity in the area,” senior colonel Long Shaohua, PLA’s WTC was quoted as saying in the Chinese readout.