UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!



Until the PLA Air Force (kongjun), which consisted primarily of aviation troops (hangkong bing), and the PLA Air Defense Force (fangkongjun), which was mainly composed of antiaircraft artillery (AAA) troops (gaoshepao bing/gaopao bing) and radar troops (leida bing), merged in 1957, they shared the air defense mission. In 1958, the PLAAF added surface-to-air missile (SAM) troops (dikong daodan bing) to its air defense mission. Due to historical and security reasons, AAA troops have sometimes been referred to as vipao (first artillery) and SAM troops as erpao (second artillery). Also for security reasons, SAMs became the responsibility of a separate HqAF Technical Department (jishu bu), instead of a calling it a SAM Department. The Technical Department was later merged into the AAA Department (gaopao bu).

 Although the PLAAF absorbed the ADF's air defense mission in 1957, there still appears to be an administrative and functional separation of aviation (aircraft) and air defense (AAA and SAM) assets. For example, one of the four deputy commanders at HqAF is responsible for operations (aviation) and one is responsible for air defense (AAA and SAM), while one of the four deputy chiefs of staff in the Headquarters Department is responsible for operations and one is responsible for air defense. In addition, the Operations Department within the Headquarters Department is primarily responsible for aviation and the AAA Department is responsible for air defense. There are also separations within the MRAFs. 


In order to protect Beijing, the Huabei Military Region (MR) established the Ping-Jin (Beiping-Tianjin) Garrison Headquarters (weishu fangkong siling bu) in April 1949, with Nie Rongzhen as the Commander and Bo Yibo as the Political Commissar. On 23 April, the Nanjing Air Defense Headquarters (fangkong siling bu) was established, and in July, the Shanghai Garrison Headquarters established a Shanghai Air Defense Division (fangkong chu). 

As more cities were liberated, the PLA's eight field AAA regiments became responsible for their air defense. The first AAA group (dadui) was formed in November 1945 in Liaoning Province. By August 1949, there were eight AAA regiments, but the PLA bought enough AAA from the Soviet Union to form ten more regiments. Later, the 6th AAA Regiment became the Air Defense School's (fangkong xuexiao) training unit, and the 8th AAA Regiment merged with the 12th Regiment. So, by the end of 1949, there were 16 AAA regiments, located in Shenyang, Anshan, Fushun, Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing, Qishuyan, Wuhan, and Changsha. 

In March 1950, the Shanghai Air Defense Headquarters (fangkong siling bu) was established. In April, the Shanghai Air Defense Command Post (fangkong zhihuisuo) was formed, with subordinate fighter, AAA, searchlight (tanzhao deng), and antiaircraft reporting (duikong qingbao) command offices (zhihuishi). Between May and September, a radar element was established, then expanded to a radar battali6n. In August, a searchlight regiment was established. 

Between March-May 1950, three AAA divisions were established to control the AAA Regiment. The 1st AAA Division was organized in Wuhan, with its subordinate 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 9th Regiments stationed in the Leizhou Peninsula, Guangzhou, and Wuhan. The 2nd AAA Division was formed in Shenyang, with the subordinate 4th and 5th Regiments stationed in Shenyang, Anshan, and Xiaofengman. The 3rd AAA Division was established in Shanghai, with the subordinate 11th, 14th, 17th, and 18th Regiments, all of which were stationed Shanghai.

 On 23 October 1950, the PLA Air Defense Headquarters (fangkong siling bu) was formally established with Zhou Shidi as the Commander and Zhong Chibing as the Political Commissar. At this time, there were two AAA divisions (the 2nd had changed to the Dongbei MR Air Defense Headquarters/ junqu fangkong siling bu), 16 AAA regiments, one searchlight regiment, two radar battalions, and one aircraft observation battalion (duikong jianshi ying). Shortly thereafter, there were four MR Air Defense Headquarters (Huadong, Huabei, Dongbei, and Zhongnan). In addition, command organizations for the Xinan MR Air Defense Division (fangkong chu), the Andong and Xiaofengman Air Defense Headquarters, the Zhejiang and Fujian Air Defense Divisions, and the Nanjing, Tianjin, Wuhan, and Nanchang Air Defense Command Posts (fangkong zhihuisuo) were formed.

 From the beginning of the Korean War until July 1953, the Air Defense Troops had the following units:

 - Two AAA divisions (the 101 st and 102nd)

- The 1st AAA Division became the Zhongnan MR Air Defense Headquarters

- The 3rd AAA Division became a Field AAA Division

- 33 AAA regiments

- 8 independent AAA battalions

- 4 searchlight regiment

- 1 radar regiment

- 8 radar battalions

- 17 aircraft observation battalions 

The AAA Academy (gaopao xueyuan) opened in 1952 in Shanghai (it was only a school/xuexiao at that time). It closed down for a period of time, and then re-opened in 197$ in Guilin. The students study for two years, and are then sent to an operational unit for one year of training before they receive their commission. The academy had 1,100 students in 1988. In addition, the following Air Defense schools were established: 

- Advanced Air Defense School (gaoji fangkong xuexiao)

 - Air Defense School (fangkong xuexiao)

- Radar School (leida xuexiao)

- Maintenance School (jishu xuexiao)

- Three Preparatory Schools (yubei xuexiao)

 In March 1955, Yang Chengwu became Commander of the Air Defense Troops. In August 1955, the PLA Air Defense Troops (fangkong budui) became the PLA Air Defense Force (ADF/fangkongjun), and the PLA Air Defense Headquarters (fangkong siling bu) became the PLA Air Defense Force Headquarters (fangkongjun siling bu). From this point on, the ADF became a service (junzhong) equivalent to the Air Force and Navy.

 By May 1957, when the ADF and PLAAF merged, the ADF had the following units:

 - Shenyang, Beijing, Nanjing, and Guangzhou MR Air Defense Headquarters

- 1 ADF Corps (fangkongjun diyi jun) formed in Fuzhou in September 1955

- 8 Schools

- AAA troops

- Searchlight troops

- Aircraft reporting troops

- 149,000 personnel


When the PLAAF and ADF merged, the new PLAAF leadership incorporated members of both forces as follows:

 - Commander

  Liu. Yalou (PLAAF) 0491/0068/2869

- Political Commissar

Wu Faxian (PLAAF) 0702/3127/2009

- Deputy Commanders

Wang Bingzhang (PLAAF) 3769/4426/3864

Liu Zhen (PLAAF) 0491/7201

Cheng Jun (ADF) 2052/6874

Cao Lihuai (PLAAF) 2580/6849/2037

Tan Jiashu (ADF) 6223/1367/6615

Chang Qiankun (PLAAF) 1603/0051/0981

Xu Shenji (PLAAF) 1776/3234/0679

 Based on the initial decision to have the PLAAF and ADF merge, the following organizational changes took place:

 - The command organization and troops of the ADF's AAA troops, searchlight troops, and aircraft reporting troops were kept in tact

 - The PLAAF's radar flights (fendui) and the ADF's aircraft reporting troops were merged

 - Administrative elements with similar functions were combined

 - Air Defense Command Posts (fangkong zhihuisuo) at each PLAAF and ADF level were merged into a unified Air Defense Operations Command Post (fangkong zuozhan zhihuisuo)

 - Each of the ADF's schools were kept in tact

 Following the 1957 merger and the addition of the SAM Troops in 1958, the PLAAF's air defense structure consisted of the following branches (bingzhong):

 - Aviation Troops included fighters, bombers, reconnaissance aircraft, transports and each type of specialized aviation troop units. From the end of the Korean War to 1957, a portion of the existing air divisions expanded from two to three regiments. From 1960-1965, more air divisions were created to guard the coast, and from 19661976, aviation troop units were expanded to cover the rest of China.

 - At the time of the PLAAF-ADF merger, the PLAAF'S AAA Troops already had 11 AAA divisions. In 1958, one of the AAA division's headquarters changed to a SAM training base. From 1959 to 1975, the number of AAA units expanded; however, there was a fairly large reduction in 1975.

 - The PLAAF's SAM Troops began when China received its first SA-2 missiles (five launchers and 62 missiles) from the Soviet Union in October 1958. The first batch of SAMs was organized into three battalions, consisting of people borrowed from the AAA, radar, aviation maintenance, and searchlight troops. The first SAM division was formed on 1 April 1964 as the 4th Independent AAA Division. In September 1958, a Special Weapons School (tezhong wuqi xuexiao) was organized in Banding and called the 15th Aviation School (hangkong xuexiao). It was responsible for training all services on surface-to-surface, surface-to-air, and shore-to-ship missile maintenance. In 1963, however, this school became responsible only for training SAM commanders, maintenance, and construction. Today, the SAM Academy is in Sanyuan, Shaanxi Province.

 - After the 1957 merger, the Aircraft Reporting Troops (duikong qingbao bind) changed their name to PLAAF Radar Troops (kongjun leida bing), and became a PLAAF branch. The PLAAF's original radar flights. (leida fendui) became subordinate to the radar regiments. 


Since the late 1980s, the PLAAF has been in the process of restructuring its AAA and SAM forces by gradually turning over most of the AAA (37 and 57 mm) to the Army, and by combining some of the remaining AAA regiments with SAM regiments into combined brigades (huncheng lu). So far, combined brigades have been noted in every MRAF except the Jinan MRAF. However, the Jinan MRAF does have at least one SAM regiment. 

As part of the restructuring process, all active duty SAM and AAA divisions (shi) have been abolished, and at least one SAM brigade without any AAA has been established in the Beijing MRAF and one in the Shenyang MRAF. In addition, there are still some SAM regiments which have not been combined into brigades. The AAA units that are not being combined with SAM's or have not been turned over to the Army will be used for deployment purposes. Although there are no longer any active duty AAA divisions, the PLAAF still has some reserve AAA divisions (yubeiyi gaopao shi), which apparently are the only Air Force reserve units. The reserve divisions) took part in a live fire exercise for the first time in September 1990



The command staff for a combined brigade and SAM brigade consists of the following personnel: 

- Commander.

 - Political commissar

- 1-2 Deputy commanders

- 1 Deputy political commissar

- Chief of staff (Director, Headquarters Department)

- Director, Political Department

- Director, Logistics Department

- Director, Maintenance Departments 

While the brigade's Standing Committee (dangwei changwei) consists of the command staff, the Party Committee (dangwei) consists of the Standing Committee plus the commander and political instructor of each subordinate battalion. The Party Committee also has its own General Office (bangongshi). 

The command staff for a typical AAA and SAM regiment consists of the following personnel: 

- Commander - Political commissar - 1 Deputy commander - Chief of staff (Director, Headquarters Department) - Director, Political Division - Director, Logistics Division 

Director, Maintenance Division 

There is also a Party Committee and Standing Committee. While the Standing Committee consists of the command staff, the Party Committee consists of the Standing Committee plus the commander and political instructor of each subordinate battalion.

 The command staff of a typical AAA and SAM battalion consists of at least the following personnel:

 - Commander - Political instructor - 1-2 Deputy commanders

 There is also a Party Committee and Standing Committee. While the Standing Committee consists of the command staff, the Party Committee consists of the Standing Committee plus the commander and political instructor of each subordinate unit. 


From 1949-1966, Headquarters Department within HqAF had a subordinate AAA Command Department (gaopao zhihui bu), which was responsible for AAA. When the PLAAF received its first SAMs in 1958, a Technical Department (jishu bu) became responsible for SAMs. The name Technical Department was used instead of SAM Department for security reasons. Although the Technical Department was soon merged with the AAA Command Department, they split again in 1966 and SAMs came under the Second AAA Command Department (dier gaoshepao bing zhihui bu). Still later, they merged again, so that today the AAA Department (gaopao bu) within the Headquarters Department at HqAF is administratively responsible for AAA and SAMs.

 Within each MRAF Headquarters, Command Post, and Air Corps, there is a AAA/SAM Division (gaopao daodan chu) or AAA Division (gaopao chu) that is primarily responsible for the day-to-day AAA and SAM technical matters. At the combined brigade level, the brigade works with the next higher level's Operations Division/Department for operational matters, and with the respective Logistics and Training Divisions/Departments for those aspects.  

Today, the administrative organization within a combined brigade and SAM brigade consists of a Headquarters Department (siling bu) Political Department (zhengzhi bu), Logistics Department (houqin bu), and Maintenance Department (jishu bu) (Figure 1). The Political Department has at least one deputy director. Meanwhile, the headquarters within the remaining AAA and SAM regiments is organized into a Headquarters Department (siling bu), Political Division (zhengzhi chu), Logistics Division (houqin chu), and Maintenance Division , (jishu chu) (Figure 2). The second level elements within the brigade headquarters are offices (ke). For example, the Political Department has a Cadre/Personnel Office (ganbu ke).


One of the differences between aviation and air defense troops is the maintenance structure. Whereas the Aeronautical Engineering Department (hangkong gongcheng bu) at the HqAF, MRAF, and Air Corps level, and the Aircraft Maintenance Division (jiwu chu) at the Command Post level, is responsible for aircraft maintenance (jiwu), the Logistics Department's (houqin bu) Armament Department/ Division (junxie bu/chu) at these levels is responsible for AAA, SAM,

communications, and radar maintenance (jishu). At the non-aviation brigade and regiment level, the Maintenance Department and Division (jishu bu/chu), respectively, separate first level administrative entities from the Logistics Department and Division (houqin bu/chu); however, they are still responsible to the next higher headquarters Logistics Department's Armament Division/Office and work closely with the brigade/regiment's Logistics Department/ Division.


For example, when a piece of equipment at a AAA, SAM, radar or communications unit needs maintenance, the Armament Office (junxie ke) within the brigade's Logistics Department initiates a tasker and passes it through the Maintenance Department's Repair Office (xiuli ke) to the Repair Flight (xiuli fendui), which then repairs the system. At the regiment level, the Armament Branch (junxie gu) within the regiment's Logistics Division initiates the maintenance task and passes it through the Maintenance Division's Repair Branch (xiuli gu) to the Repair Flight (Figure 3). At the battalion level, there is a Maintenance Section (jishu zu), and at the company level there is a Maintenance Unit (jishu fendui).




Prior to the 1985 Military Region reorganization, AAA and SAM units were organized separately into divisions (shi) or independent regiments (tuan). Each independent regiment also had the status of a division (shiji). Each division had subordinate regiments (tuan), battalions lying), companies (lian), platoons (pai), and squads (ban). Each independent regiment also had battalions, companies, platoons, and squads. Following the reorganization, however, the division level and their subordinate regiments were abolished .and their AAA and SAM assets were merged into combined brigades, so that the chain of command now goes directly from the brigade to the battalion. Each brigade now has 5-6 battalions, including 2-3 AAA and 2-3 SAM battalions, plus their subordinate companies, p?nfwc vs, Ind. squads.


As for the remaining independent regiments, each SAM regiment has 1-3 battalions, and each battalion has six launchers plus various support companies, such as command and control, logistics, maintenance, and radar companies. As for the AAA regiments, each regiment has 2-3 battalions, each battalion has 3-5 companies (minimum of 3), each company has three AAA squads plus support (vehicle, maintenance, logistics, etc.) squads, each squad has 3-6 platoons, and each platoon has one AAA piece.

 Each brigade and regiment has a command post (zhihuisuo), best translated as a command center, within the Headquarters Department which is staffed by at least one representative from each of the second-level administrative elements.


Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list