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SECTION 13
AVIATION TROOPS

As one of the PLAAF's five branches (bingzhong), the Air Force's aviation troops (hangkong bing) consists of fighter (qianji hangkong bing), ground attack aircraft (qiangji hangkong bing), bomber (hongzha hangkong bing), transport (yunshu hangkong bing), and reconnaissance (zhenchaji) units. The primary missions of the aviation troops are support to the ground forces and air defense. As the PLAAF's main arm, the aviation troop aircraft are organized into air divisions (shi), air regiments (tuan), groups (dadui), squadrons (zhongdui), and flights (fendui). There are also associated logistics, maintenance, and support units, which are further organized into regiments, battalions lying), companies (lian), platoons (pai), and squads (ban). Air divisions can be directly subordinate to HqAF (34th Transport Division), to an MRAF Headquarters (9th Air Division), to an Air Corps (42nd Air Division), or to a Command Post. There are also independent regiments (duli dadui) and groups (deli dadui), which conduct specialized missions such as operational test and evaluatin (OT&E) of equipment, reconnaissance and surveying, troop transport, and reforestation. For the most part, these aircraft include reconnaissance fighters, as well as IL-14 and Yun-5 transports. 

THE EARLY YEARS

The 4th Combined Brigade (huncheng lu) was established at Nanjing in June 1950 and became the PLAAF's first aviation troop unit. It consisted of the 10th Pursuit (quzhu) Regiment, the 11th Pursuit Regiment, the 12th Bomber (hongzha) Regiment, and the 13th Attack (chongji) Regiment. Later, this brigade split to form some of the first air divisions. 

In October 1950, the 3rd Pursuit Brigade (MIG-15) was established in Shenyang, consisting of the 7th, 8th, and 9th Regiments, and the 4th Pursuit Brigade (MICy-15) was formed in Liaoyang, Liaoning Province, using the 4th Combined Brigade as a basis. The 4th Pursuit Brigade consisted of the 4th Combined Brigade's 10th Pursuit Regiment and the 3rd Pursuit Brigade's 7th Regiment (which changed to the 12th Regiment). In late October, the 3rd and 4th Brigades underwent several significant changes. 

- Each brigade reduced the number of regiments from three to two.

 - Each brigade dropped the type of unit (Pursuit/Attack/Bomber) from the name. 

- The 3rd Pursuit Brigade became the PLAAF 3rd Division (kong 3 shi). 

- The 4th Pursuit Brigade became the PLAAF 4th Division (kong 4 shi). In March 1956, the 4th Division became the 1 st Air Division (kong 1 shi). 

By the end of May 1951, the PLAAF had 17 air divisions, including 12 pursuit divisions, two attack divisions, two bomber divisions, and one transport division. Each of the divisions had two regiments. This number expanded rapidly, so that by March 1953, there was a total of 28 air divisions and 56 air regiments were formed. At the same time, each division began changing from two regiments back to three regiments. The IL-10 were ground attack aircraft, the TU-2 and LA-2 were bombers, the IL-12 was a transport, and the MIG-15, MIG-9 and LA-9 were fighters. A list of aviation units is as follows: 

The table below shows the origins of the PLAAF's 1 st through 18th Air Divisions: 

Division Regiments Date Aircraft Location
1st 1st/2nd/3rd Mar 56 ------ Anshan, Liaoning
2nd 4th/6th Nov 50 MIG-15 Shanghai Longhua
3rd 7th/8th/9th Oct 50 MIG-15 Shenyang
4th 10th/12th Oct 50 MIG-15 Liaoyang, Liaoning
5th 13th/15th Dec 50 IL-10 Kaiyuan, Liaoning
6th 16th/17th Nov 50 MIG-9 Anshan, Liaoning
7th 19th/21st Dec 50 MIG-9 Dongfeng Xian, Jilin
8th 22nd/24th Dec 50 LA-2 Siping, Jilin
9th 25th/27th Tranfered to Naval Aviation on 7 December 1955 Dec50 LA-9 Jilin, Jilin
10th 28th/30th Jan 51 TU-2 Nanjing, Jiangsu
11th 31st/33rd Feb 51 IL-10 Xuzhou, Jiangsu
12th 34th/36th Dec 50 MIG-9 Xiaoshan Xian, Zhejiang
13th 37th/39th Apr 51 IL-12 Xinjin Xian, Sichuan
14th 40th/42nd Feb 51 LA-9 Beijing Nanyuan
15th 43rd/45th May 51 MIG-15 Huaide Xian, Jilin
16th 46th/48th Feb 51 MIG-15 Qingdao, Shamloiig
17th 49th/51st Transfered to Naval Aviation on 1 June 1951 Apr 51 MIG-15 Qingdao, Shamloiig
18th 52nd/54th May 51 MIG-15 Guangzhou, Guangdong

 Between 1951-1954, several more divisions and regiments were added. By early 1954, the PLAAF had 28 air divisions and 70 air regiments, with 3000 aircraft.

 - November 1951 - May 1952: The 19th, 21st, and 24th Fighter Divisions, the 20th, 23rd, and 25th Bomber Divisions, the 22nd Ground Attack Division, and the 1st and 2nd Independent Reconnaissance Regiments were formed.

 - December 1952 - March 1953: The 26th and 27th Fighter Divisions, the 28th Ground Attack Division, the 3rd Independent Transport Regiment, and the 4th Independent Reconnaissance Regiment were formed.

 - Late 1953 - 1954: The 29th Fighter Division and the 5th Independent Reconnaissance Regiment were formed.

 In 1953, aviation troops were divided into 1 st, 2nd, and 3rd level groups (dadui), based upon their training level. In 1964, the groups were renamed "A" (jia), "B" (yi), and "C" (bing) groups. This system was suspended during the Cultural Revolution, but was revived in 1977. In 1978, type "A" regiments (jia lei tuan) were organized. Fighter and ground attack pilots in these regiments were required to be able to fly in daytime VFR (visual flight regulations) and IFR (instrument flight regulations), complete all kinds of operational missions, and to be able to fly singly to another airfield in nighttime VFR conditions. Bomber pilots were required to be able to complete their mission in daytime VFR and IFR conditions, and nighttime VFR conditions, as well as fly singly to another airfield in nighttime IFR conditions.

 The Korean conflict looms large as a galvanizing event in PLAAF history. A comparison of USAF and PLAAF accounts of the Korean conflict and air battles over the Taiwan Strait (1958) are informative. According to the PLAAF's published history, China shot down 330 aircraft and hit another 95 during the Korean War. Chinese pilots also shot down two aircraft, hit one and sustained no losses during the 1958 engagement. According to the same book, the PLAAF downed 110 additional manned and unmanned aircraft over a period of several years. According to U.S. Air Force data, the Far East Air Force (FEAF) Command destroyed 976 and damaged 1009 enemy aircraft in air-to-air combat during the Korean War. The FEAF lost 1041 aircraft of which 147 were from air-to-air combat and 816 were from AAA fire. U.S. Air Force data also states that during the 1958 crisis there were 25 air-to-air engagements from August 23 to October 6. Nationalist pilots destroyed 32 aircraft, downed probably three more and damaged ten. Nationalist forces lost four of their own aircraft.

 _______________

*The PLAAF refers to flying in day VFR (zhoujian jiandan), day IFR (zhoujian fuza), night VFR (yejian jiandan), and night VFR (yejian fuza) conditions as flying in different types of weather conditions (qixiang feixing) . For example, flying in day and night VFR and day IFR is referred to as flying in "three weather conditions" (sanzhong qixiang). 

AVIATION TROOPS TODAY

A typical air division headquarters consists of the command staff and administrative organization. These people/organizations are responsible for combat and training, political training, supply, and maintenance support for the division. Each division and regiment has a Party Committee and a Standing Committee, of which the political commissar is the secretary. The Standing Committee consists of the command staff, and the Party Committee consists of the Standing Committee plus the commanders and political commissars of each subordinate regiment: 

COMMAND STAFF

The command staff at a typical air division consists of the following personnel:

 Position                                                                                                                                                 Rank

Commander                                                                                                                                           Sr Col

Political commissar                                                                                                                               Sr Col

Deputy commanders (2)                                                                                                                      Sr Col/Col

Deputy political commissar (None)

Chief of staff (Director, Headquarters Dept)                                                                                   Col

Deputy chiefs of staff (1-2)                                                                                                                Col

Director, Political Department                                                                                                            Col

Director, Field Station                                                                                                                         Col

Director, Aircraft Maintenance Division                                                                                          Col

 The command staff at a typical air regiment consist of the following personnel:

 Position

 Commander

Political Commissar

Deputy Commanders)

Chief of Staff (Director, Headquarters Department)

Director, Political Division

Director, Field Station

Director, Aircraft Maintenance Group

 Each air division and air regiment has a Party Committee (dangwei) and Party Standing Committee (dangwei changwei). The Standing Committee consists of the command staff, and the Party Committee consists of the Standing Committee plus the commander and political commissar/instructor from each subordinate unit. 

ADMINISTRATIVE STRUCTURE

 

The administrative structure at an air division headquarters has four main elements as shown in Figure 1. Subordinate elements within them are either offices (ke), branches (gu), or sections (zu). 

 

Headquarters Department (siling bu)

Political Department (zhengzhi bu)

Propaganda Office (xuanchuan ke)

Field Station (chang zhan)

Aircraft Maintenance Division (jiwu chu/gongcheng jiwu chu)

The administrative structure at an air regiment has the four main elements as shown in figure 2.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OPERATIONAL STRUCTURE

 

An air division normally has two to three flying regiments (feixing tuan), and if the regiments are located at different airfields, each airfield has a field station (chang zhan) for logistics support. Some flying academies have four regiments. The flying regiment, which has a set number of 25-32 aircraft (but may actually have more or less assigned), is the basic organization for training and operations (Figure 3). Each regiment has three flying groups (feixing dadui), which are numbered the 1st through the 3rd, and one Aircraft Maintenance Group (jiwu dadui). Each flying group has three flying squadrons (feixing zhongdui).

 

 

 

The division has about an equal number of pilots and aircraft, and each pilot only flies the aircraft assigned to his squadron (2-3 aircraft). The average pilot's education level is a college graduate, which is usually earned at a PLAAF flying academy (feixing xueyuan), and they have no set commitment after completing pilot training. However, the PLAAF established age limits for its pilots in the 1980s -- fighter and ground attack pilots (43-45 years); bomber pilots (48-50 years); transport pilots (55 years); helicopter pilots (47-50 years); and female pilots (48 years). The average age of fighter and ground attack pilots is 28 years. 

LOGISTICS

The field station (chang zhan) is an independent logistics support unit under dual leadership of the air division and the MRAF Headquarters. Prior to February 1970, the field station was called a base (jidi), and had the status of a division. Today, however, it has the status of a regiment. The field station is responsible for organizing and supplying material and equipment, and also for providing continuous combined service support for operations and training. A field station at an airfield supporting two fighter, regiments has about 930 personnel, including 170 officers and 760 airmen. Each airfield housing aircraft assigned to the division has its own field station. The officers are graduates of PLAAF colleges and technical schools. The field station is organized into a command staff, Party Committee, administrative structure (Figure 4), and support companies as follows:                                                                                             

 

Command Staff

 Director (zhanzhang)

Political Commissar                             

Chief of Staff

Director, Political Division

 

The field station has a Party Committee (dangwei) and a Party Standing Committee (dangwei changwei). The Standing Committee consists of the command staff, and the Party Committee consists of the Standing Committee plus the senior field station personnel.

 

 

 

 

Administrative Structure

 

Headquarters Department (siling bu)  

Political Division (zhengzhi chu) 

Air Materiel Branch (hangcai gu) 

Armament Branch (junxie gu) 

Quartermaster Branch (junxu gu) 

Finance Branch (caiwu gu) 

Transportation Branch (yunshu gu) 

Housing Branch (yingfang gu) 

Runway Maintenance Branch (xiujian gu) 

Support Companies

 

Each airfield has thirteen companies (lian), including the seven shown below. 

The Vehicle Company (jichang qiche lian) has several types of vehicles to perform various jobs. 

- There are three types of fuel vehicles (you che), which constitute the largest number of vehicles in the company. Most of them are huanghe (Yellow River) or jiefang (liberation) type trucks, including fuel transport trucks (yunyou che) that take fuel from the depot to the airfield; fuel pump trucks (chouyou che) that pump the remaining fuel from aircraft tanks and puts it in a fuel truck; aviation fuel trucks (hangkong qiyou che) of which there is usually one per company. 

- There are three kinds of tow trucks (qianyin che), including large type (daxing) imported trucks used for towing long range bombers, large transports, and passenger aircraft; medium type (zhongxing) jiefang CA 30 and dongfang 140 trucks used for towing medium range bombers; and small type (xiaoxing) used at fighter bases. 

- Each ambulance (jiuhu che) has one doctor and one nurse. 

- Emergency trucks (yingji che) are the same as the tow trucks but they have a tow bar attached, along with various emergency spare parts. 

- Parachute trucks (san che) take landing chutes and chute personnel (baosan yuan) between the aircraft and the chute room (baosan shi).

 - Control vehicles (zhihui che), most of which are jeeps today, take controllers, flight dispatchers, and weather personnel around the airfield. 

- Transport trucks (yunshu che) transport logistics materials and personnel.

 - There are also cranes (diao che), fuel trucks (qiyou che), and passenger vehicles.

 - Aviation troops also have other vehicles that are assigned to companies other than the vehicle company, such as fire trucks (xiaofang che), snow blowers (chuixue che), heating trucks (diaowen che), radar trucks (leida che), search light trucks (tanzhao deng che), air materiel trucks (hangcai che), auxiliary fuel trucks (fuyou che), AC/DC electric vehicles (zhiliu/jiaoliu dianyuan che), and engineering trucks (gongcheng che). 

Instrument Company (qizhan lian) 

Field Service Company (changwu lian) 

Communications Company (tongxin lian) 

Four Stations Support Company (sizhan qinwu lian/sizhan lian). Each station (zhan), which is equivalent to a platoon (paiji), has a director (zhanzhang) and 4-5 personnel. 

Oxygen Station (zhiyana zhan) 

Oxygen Charging Station (changyang zhan) 

Compressed Air Station (lengqi zhan) 

Electricity Charging Station (chongdian zhan)

 Security Company (jingwei lian)

 Fuel Transport Company (yunyou lian)

 Health Team (weishen dui)                                  

AIRCRAFT MAINTENANCE

The director of aircraft maintenance (jiwu chu chuzhang) is responsible for engineering maintenance support. The repair shops have about 85 people, including 20 officers and 65 airmen. The officers have college or technical school degrees, and are classified as assistant engineers or above, technicians, or skilled personnel. The enlisted airmen are trained in aircraft maintenance training regiments (jiwu xunlian tuan), such as the one in the Nanjing MRAF.

                                                                                               

The air division's aircraft maintenance workshops/backshops (xiuli chang) are responsible for intermediate repair of the division's aircraft and periodic inspections (under 400 hours for fighters), general malfunction repair and overall repair, specialized parts inspection and repair, and repairing of certain spare parts. All the technical equipment for maintenance is organized into ground equipment and instruments, plus instruments and equipment onboard engineering vehicles. A typical repair shop department (chang bu) is organized as shown in Figure 5:

 Aircraft Flight (feiji fendui) 

           Assembly Section (zhuangbei zu) 

           Metal Work Section (baitie zu) 

Special Equipment Flight (teshe fendui) 

          Electrical/Avionics Section (dianzi zu) 

          Instruments Section (yibiao zu) 

Armament Flight (junxie fendui) 

In House Repair Section (shinei zu)         

Out House/Periodic Repair Section (shiwai zu) 

Radio Flight (wuxiandian fendui) 

        Communications/Navigation Section (tianxian zu) 

         Radar Section (leida zu) 

Accessories Flight (fujian fendui) 

          Hydraulics Section (yeya zu) 

          Compressed Air Section (lengqi zu) 

          Inspection, Non-destructive Section (tanshang zu) 

Machinery Flight (jijia fendui) 

Lathe Section (chegong  zu) 

Heat Treatment Section (redian gong zu) 

Welding Section (hangong zu)

Benchwork Section (qiangong zu) 

Milling and Grinding Section (xibaomo zu) 

The Aircraft Maintenance Group (jiwu dadui) has about 350 people, including 90 officers and 260 airmen. The officers are college or technical school graduates, and are classified as assistant engineers or above, technicians, or skilled personnel. The Aircraft Maintenance Group performs flight line maintenance on the division/regiment's aircraft. For example, an A-5 requires about 40 hours of maintenance for each flying hour.

 The Cultural Revolution created several maintenance problems for the Air Force. For example, quality control measures for the F-6-3, Zhi-5 helicopter, and A-5 completely broke down during their development, forcing the Military Commission to order factory recalls for all of these aircraft in November 1975. In addition, PLAAF A-5, F-6, and F-7 aircraft have had a very serious problem with hydraulic system contamination. Whereas the U.S. Air Force uses the NAS-1638 standard, which allows for a 7-8 level for hydraulic system contamination, the PLAAF, using this standard, has an average of 9-12. Several examples are as follows: 

- From 1979 through 1985, the PLAAF had a total of 1,894 A-5 ground attack aircraft malfunctions, of which 42 percent were hydraulic system malfunctions. 

- From 1978 through 1981, the PLAAF had a total of 965 F-6 malfunctions, of which 28.7 Percent were hydraulic system malfunctions. 

- From 1979 through 1983, the PLAAF had a total of 272 F-7 malfunctions, of which 30 percent were hydraulic system malfunctions.

 - In 1986, hydraulic system malfunctions accounted for 42.3 percent of the F-6 and 71.4 percent of the F-7 malfunctions in the Jinan MR. In 1987, this represented 43 percent of all malfunctions in the Jinan MR.

 - In 1987, the Shenyang MR had 591 F-6 hydraulic system malfunctions, which was 46 percent of all Shenyang MR F-6 malfunctions. In addition, 23 hydraulic pumps were changed.

 - From 1966 through' 1985, hydraulic system malfunctions comprised 36 percent of all malfunctions in the Guangzhou MR.

 - Hydraulic system malfunctions averaged 24 percent over several years for one F-7-2 unit, with a high of 43 percent in 1983.

                Figure 6 shows a typical Aircraft Maintenance Group, which is organized into four squadrons (zhongdui).

               

First Squadron

 

 Radar Flight (leida fendui)

 Machinery Flight (jixie fendui)              

Armament Flight (iunxie fendui) 

Special Equipment Flight (teshe fendui) 

Radio Flight (wuxiandian fendui) 

Second Squadron 

Machinery Flight (jixie fendui) 

Armament Flight (junxie fendui)

Special Equipment Flight (teshe fendui)

Radio Flight (wuxiandian fendui)

Third Squadron

Primary Fighter Machinery Flight (chuji jixie fendui)

FT-6 Trainer Machinery Flight (qianjiao 6 jixie fendui)

Armament Fli-ght (lunxie fendui)

Special Equipment Flight (teshe fendui)

Radio Flight (wuxiandian fendui)

Periodic Inspection Squadron (dingiian zhon dui)

Machinery Flight (lixie fendui)

Armament Flight (iunxie fendui)

Special Equipment Flight (teshe fendui)

Radio Flight (wuxiandian fendui)

Repair Flight (xiuli fendui)

 

 

 

 



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