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86th Amphibious Mechanized Division
86th Motorized Infantry Division

The PLA has doubled the size of its Amphibious Mechanized Division (AMD) to boost their combat capabilities in the event of a conflict over Taiwan or in the seas east or south of China.

The PLA AMDs originally had two - one in Nanjing Military Region and one in Guangzhou Military Region - comprising a total of 26,000 to 30,000 soldiers. Between 2007 and 2012, the 86th Motorized Infantry Division of the 31st Army Group and Nanjing 41st Guangzhou Army Group's 123rd Mechanized Infantry Division both were refurbished into AMDs, doubling the total staff of 52,000 to 60,000.

The four AMDs reported, strengthen the combat power of China because they can cooperate with 20,000 troops from the Marines of PLA to conduct assault landing operations. Each AMD has three battle groups and can carry up to 300 amphibious transport vehicles.

The PLA seems to be looking to diversify the capacity of its amphibious ground forces rather than simply strengthen Marine Corps as a means to strengthen its authority in the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea, where it is involved in a series of territorial disputes.

A Pentagon report on the Chinese military in 2008 noted that the PLA had increased the mobility of its troops in the event of a conflict with Taiwan. The idea of boosting the capacity of amphibious combat was noted in the 2014 version of the report, which said that one of the strategic options for the PLA was quickly taking over Taiwan before other countries could intervene.

However, not everyone is convinced that doubling of AMDs necessarily pose a greater concern for Taiwan. The former colonel in the Marine Corps of the Republic of China, Yi-Jia Shiite, said AMDs are fundamentally different from the Marines and that the threat is not as serious as advertised, although increased cooperation between two units will have to follow closely.

The AMDs of the PLA and the Marines have not yet established a system of joint command, he said, adding that a possible conflict with Taiwan, the command of the AMD will be owned by its military region, as opposed to the PLA Navy, which controls the Marine Corps.

The AMDs also have limited experience battle at sea and can not simply rely on their ZBD-05 amphibious assault vehicles cross the Taiwan Strait, he said, adding that the PLA still had need of the amphibious transport of Type 071 Yuzhao class of the Navy and helicopter landing dock or Type 081 amphibious assault ships to conduct a proper assault landing.

The AMD based development war "coast to coast" as crossing rivers, lakes and difficult terrain, maintaining its combat power, he said, while the Marine Corps focuses on the war "sea to land" which is more concerned with how to project combat power of the armed forces across the seas.




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