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SECTION 3
STRATEGY AND DOCTRINE

The People's Liberation Army's (PLA) current strategy of "active defense" (jiji fangyu) consists of taking tactically offensive action within a basically defensive strategy. The defending forces undertake offensive operations in order to wear down the adversary while the enemy is strategically on the offensive and attacking. The PLAAF's two primary roles in the overall active defense strategy are to provide air defense for the nation and to support the ground forces. 

Although the PLAAF has actually performed its two primary missions for over four decades, it apparently accomplished this for the most part without a formalized, written doctrine. Therefore, as a result of the problems encountered during the 1979 border war with Vietnam, the PLA drafted a proposal in 1982 outlining PLAAF utilization in Group Army field positional defensive campaigns. Even though the ground support role was defined in 1982, the PLAAF apparently still does not have a strategic air defense policy. 

STRATEGIC AIR DEFENSE POLICY

 In late 1988, the PLAAF's SAM and AAA Applied Research Center (kongjun dikonj daodan, gaopao yingyong yanjiu zhongxin) published an article entitled "First Exploration Of An Air Defense Strategy," which addressed the need for a policy on air defense strategy. As late as February 1991, the Liberation Army Daily carried an article entitled "Formulate a Guiding Ideology on Active Air Defense." The 1988 article began by stating, "To date, the PLAAF's theoretical research has not yet formulated an air defense strategy. Therefore, as air defense modernization develops, research must be done on an air defense strategy." The article continued by discussing these three aspects of an air defense strategy -- complete deterrence; give priority to resisting an attack; and a timely counterattack. 

COMPLETE DETERRENCE: The article stated that China already has a limited number of nuclear weapons as a nuclear deterrent to contain the enemy. At the same time, air defense power has a deterrent function to contain an enemy from using air raids. An effective air defense consists of SAM's interceptors, AAA, and ECM. China already has a certain scale of effective air defense deterrent force. If China can step up its modernization and reach the same level as those militarily strong countries around China who have a strong air raid capability, then China will be capable of avoiding a direct aerial confrontation. This will allow China's economy to develop quickly in a fairly stable and peaceful environment. From this it can be seen that overall deterrence is the best plan for China's air defense. 

GIVING PRIORITY TO RESISTING AN ATTACK: China's strategic policy of active defense has determined that the first step in air defense operations is to resist an attack. Based on all of the capabilities of SAM's, this weapon system is the most developed and popular air defense weapon. 

TIMELY COUNTERATTACK: From an overall air defense perspective, a defensive counterattack against an enemy's base is a more active combat operation than resisting an enemy attack; however, this type of attack is a defensive attack, and even this has its special requirements. Since China does not have the capability to conduct a large scale counterattack in the near future, China can only organize timely, small scale counterattack operations. 

The article concluded that China's air defense strategy should be based on China's special characteristics of an active defense policy. Furthermore, the air defense strategy should be the guiding policy for building China's air defense and its air defense operations. 

The 1991 article provided an historical perspective of air defense, and stated that the development of air defense weapons is moving toward "integration of both offense and defense, and of attack and counterattack." The article concluded by stating that China must formulate a guiding ideology on active air defense. 

GROUND SUPPORT DOCTRINE

 As a result of the lessons learned during the 1979 Sino-Vietnam border conflict, in 1982 the PLA established the doctrine for "Air Force utilization during the campaign to defend Group Army field positions" (jituan jun yezhan zhendi fangyu zhanyi kongjun de yunyong) during future wars.' This doctrine specified that the PLAAF will have the dual responsibility of defending China's airspace and of supporting ground forces. The Military Commission and PLAAF will establish a unified command (tongyi zhihui) for defending China's strategic points, based on the intentions of the General Headquarters (tongshuai bu). On the other hand, the PLAAF and Group Armies will organize to support ground forces, according to a fixed plan under the Front Army's (fangmian jun) command. Normally, Combined Arms units (hecheng jundui), Group Armies, and units below Group Armies do not have subordinate PLAAF units; however, according to the orders from higher echelons, some PLAAF troops are assigned to coordinate operations.

________________________

*The PLA .reorganized its ground fighting forces in 1985 from an infantry-heavy field army (yezhanjun) structure to corps size units called "group armies" (jituan jun). Generally, group armies combine several infantry divisions with armor divisions or brigades, as well as artillery, engineering, anti-aircraft, communications and other specialty forces into an integrated, combined arms fighting force. Although the first references to a group army were not seen until 1985, the 1979 Sino-Vietnam border conflict provided the impetus for the development of the concept which was finalized in 1982.  

PLAAF aviation troops can support Group Army operations due to their high degree of mobility and their ability to concentrate force in a short period of time. The main characteristics of the aviation troops in supporting field positional defense are as follows: 

- Combat lines are relatively stable.

 - The enemy is on the offensive, and China is on the defensive.

 - The enemy's weapons and equipment are superior and China's are inferior.

 - Support operations continue for a long period.

 - The missions will be formidable, and organizing cooperation will be difficult.

 Based on these characteristics, the PLAAF must abide by the strategic policy of "active defense," must carry out the combined principles of an active strike and tight defense, and must resolutely complete support operations as determined by the Combined Arms commander. Overall, the doctrine is divided into three parts -- Mission and Requirements; Command and Coordination; and Combat Actions. 

MISSION AND REQUIREMENTS

MISSION

The PLAAF normally performs the following support missions for defending Group Army field positions:

 - Gain air superiority along major defensive campaign directions and at key times, resist enemy air attacks, and provide cover and protection for the Group Army to deploy and carry out operational actions.

 - Disrupt the enemy's attack plans, and quickly take the opportunity to seal off bridges, mountain passes, and important transportation routes that the enemy must use as it begins the attack. 

- Wipe out and suppress the enemy which is assaulting defensive positions or breaking through defenses, and support ground troops who are defending important defensive areas.

 - Support the campaign's reserve forces in counterattacks, and wipe out enemy forces who have broken through the defenses.

 - Coordinate with the ground force units to destroy airborne troops.

 - Conduct aerial reconnaissance.

 - Carry out aerial transport, bombing, rescue, and communications support.

REQUIREMENTS

 In order to best use aviation troops in defensive campaigns, and to effectively support ground force operations, the basic requirements for utilizing aviation troops are active support (jiji zhiyuan), concentrated use of air power (jizhong shiyong), flexible mobility (linghuo jidong), close coordination (miqie xietong), and tight protection (yanmi fanghu) for ground troops. 

ACTIVE SUPPORT (JIJI ZHIYUAN): Each branch of the PLAAF and each unit must establish the philosophy that the victory is a ground force victory, and, in accordance with the uniform coordination action plan, beginning with the needs of the ground force units, take the initiative to cooperate and provide active support. It is necessary to make the best possible use of the capabilities of one's own weapons and equipment, using one's strengths to strike the enemy's weaknesses, and use inferior equipment to defeat an enemy with superior equipment. It is necessary to foster a combat style of bravery and tenacity, and of continuous combat to overcome various types of difficulties, and no matter what the cost, provide air support during key times and decisive stages of the campaign, actively completing support operations missions assigned by the Combined Arms commander. 

CONCENTRATED USE OF AIR POWER (JIZHONG SHIYONG): "Concentrate superior forces to wipe out each and every enemy soldier" is the Army's traditional method of combat. It is the primary rule in defeating the enemy. In ground force unit field positional defensive operations, it is necessary to concentrate a limited amount of air support to be used along the main direction of ground defenses, and at key times during the campaign, to strike important targets which are the greatest threat. To strive to attain air superiority within a certain time and over a certain area, and to gain local air superiority and wipe out enemy troops to effectively support ground force units in completing their most important missions. It is especially important when aviation troops are small, to stress their concentrated use and not to divide the forces. In order to ensure that aviation troops are concentrated in use, the campaign must: 

- Deploy forces in a reasonable manner to ensure that, under dispersed conditions, they can mobilize large numbers and quickly concentrate them in a specific area. 

- Control a certain amount of reserve forces to ensure they will not lose the opportunity to reinforce support operations along main defensive directions, or to attack a major target that has just appeared. 

- Carry out a high degree of unified command to ensure that within the shortest possible time, support forces can be concentrated for use along main directions and at key times. 

FLEXIBLE MOBILITY (LINGHUO TIDONG): Flexible mobility is an important aspect of air power. Only through the use of forces with flexible mobility is it possible to win major victories at a small cost. Flexible mobility includes the following: 

- Timely concentration, dispersion, and shifting of military force. 

- Clever use of weather, terrain, and the enemy's weaknesses to mask your intentions. 

- Selection of tactics such as an advantageous flight route, low altitude, small formation, and multiple directions and flight levels to attack the enemy.

 - Close attention to controlling the three links of timing, location, and unit. 

CLOSE COORDINATION (MIOIE XIETONG): Close Army and Air Force coordination is an important precondition for success in modern Combined Arms operations. The principles for coordination are as follows: 

- When conducting counterattacks or when resisting paratroop drops, the campaign reserves should be the primary force. 

- When resisting encirclement, the unit responsible for the major mission should be the main force. 

- Among the different PLAAF branches and units, that branch or unit tasked with the major operational mission should be the main force. 

- The drafting of the coordinated action plan (xietong dongzuo jihua) is usually directed by the campaign commander (zhanyi zhihuiyuan) and his headquarters. 

- When deciding on the missions of each type of force, the PLAAF should strike targets the ground forces cannot strike; and for major targets which must be attacked by more than one type of force, there must be close coordination to prevent casualties from friendly forces. 

- During operational actions, aviation troops should act in accordance with the coordinated Army-Air Force action plan's strict rules of time, place, target, and requirements. They should also make best use of ground artillery to suppress the enemy's air defense forces and weapons to facilitate completion of the strike mission. When coordination is lost or disrupted, everyone should take whatever effective measures are appropriate to quickly adjust and reestablish coordination.

TIGHT PROTECTION (YANMI FANGHU): Tight protection is important for destroying the enemy, preserving yourself, and sustaining'support for ground troops during combat. PLAAF airfields and air bases are important targets for the enemy, so China must adopt positive measures to enhance protection for aircraft, personnel, and all types of facilities. The primary measures for this are: 

- Dispersing Forces (fensan peizhi) -- One airfield normally has one regiment, which will disperse under the proper conditions. The regiment should make complete use of civil, sod, and old airfields, as well as highways to disperse its aircraft. As an example, the November 1989 issue of Hangkong Zhishi (Aerospace Knowledge) described the first time use on 2 September of the Shenyang-Dalian Highway by three F-8 interceptors and one IL-14 transport as a dispersal runway. The F-8s landed singly and took off quickly in a three-ship formation. 

- Camouflage and Concealment (yinbi weizhuang) -- This can be accomplished by making complete use of aircraft cave shelters, small hangars, single aircraft shelters, and dispersal areas, and by adopting camouflage measures, building false targets, and concealing the real and making the false obvious. 

- Increasing civil-military cooperative defense of airfields, deploying air defense forces, establishing emergency repair teams, and strengthening ground and antiair defense for the airfields. Particular attention must be paid to cooperative defense of front line airfields, so that aviation troops can smoothly carry out their support missions. 

COMMAND AND COORDINATION

COMMAND ORGANIZATION

PLAAF support for ground forces comes under the unified control of the Front Army, with the PLAAF and Group Armies organized to carry out the Front Army's orders. A Group Army is organized as part of the Front Army and is responsible for supporting operations. Normally, the PLAAF and an Army/Group Army set up an Operations Section (zuozhan xiaozu), or the PLAAF and an Army set up a Forward Command Post (qianzhi), which is responsible for organizing command. Bomber and ground attack aviation units assign a Target Controller Section (mubiao yindao zu) to coordinate directly with a ground force Division.

 The Operations Section's primary missions are as follows: 

- Receive orders and carry out the combat support mission. 

- Relay the Combined Arms commanders' orders and requirements. 

- Recommend how to use aviation troops. 

- Report intelligence. 

- Maintain close cooperation with the ground force unit. 

- Control aircraft to strike the target. 

The Target Controller Section's primary missions are as follows: 

- Convey the ground force unit's air support request (kongyuan shenqing). 

- Report intelligence. 

- Maintain close cooperation with the ground force unit. 

- Control aircraft to strike the target. 

DRAFTING THE COORDINATED ACTION PLAN 

Coordinated ground-air operations should be under the Combined Arms commander and the direction of its Headquarters Department, which call together representatives from every service and branch to jointly establish a coordinated action plan (xietong dongzuo jihua). The PLAAF's representatives should accurately understand the following: 

- What the overall concept of the Group Army's field positional defensive campaign is. 

- What the PLAAF's support mission is. 

- How to report the PLAAF's situation. 

- How to recommend the proper use of the PLAAF 

The PLAAF representatives should also make the following clear in the coordinated action plan: 

- What the PLAAF's mission is and the total number of sorties that can be generated to support to ground units. 

- What the overall mission is and the number of sorties during each phase of a campaign. 

- What the separate areas are between the PLAAF, ground artillery, and tactical surface-to-surface missile units, etc., for attacking .targets. 

- How to establish coordinated communications liaison and methods with each concerned branch and unit to mutually report the situation. 

- How to request timing and procedures for aviation troop sortie generation. 

- What the timing and methods are for suppressing enemy ground air defense weapons. 

- What the methods are for Army-Air Force liaison, mutual identification (xianghu shibie/1FF), and indicating targets. 

- What plan there is to deal with special circumstances. 

The coordinated action plan is the foundation for Army-Air Force coordination. Aviation and ground force units must strictly carry out the plan in order to avoid an imbalance of ground-air coordination which leads to mistakenly harming friendly forces and influencing the outcome of the attack. If a new situation arises during the campaign that disrupts the coordinated action, then everyone must try as hard as possible to restore the originally agreed upon plan to deal with the situation. 

METHODS FOR REQUESTING AIR SUPPORT 

There are several methods for requesting air support and sortie generation. Normally, the requests are made according to the degree of urgency, the nature of the target, special characteristics of different aircraft, and determination of support requirements for Army-Air Force communications liaison. Based on China's current equipment, the primary methods are using an advance request (yuxian shenqing), acting according to a plan (an jihua jidong), or calling for an air strike (an jihua ting zhaohuan chudong). 

ADVANCE REQUEST: This is an advance request for air support by ground units based on the Army-Air Force coordinated action plan. The procedures are as follows: 

- The ground unit that needs support coordinates with the same level Air Force Operations Section or Target Controller Section, and passes information on the target, time, requirement, and expected attack results through the ground force's command system. After the information passes up through the command system echelon by echelon, then is finally reported as a whole to the Front Army Command Post. Advance requests can be proposed daily and can be carried out by stages (3 or 5 days). 

- After the request is approved, the order is passed down through the Air Force's command system to the aviation unit to carry out. The Army's command system notifies the ground units that will receive the air support. 

ACT ACCORDING TO A PLAN: After the advance request is approved and an aviation unit receives its support mission orders, the aviation unit completes advance preparations to carry out the support mission. The unit then acts according to the time schedule in the plan. 

CALLING FOR AN AIR STRIKE: After the advance request is approved and an aviation unit receives its support mission orders, the aviation unit completes advance preparations to carry out the support mission according to the ground unit's requirements. The aviation unit does not act until it receives a call. Call procedures are as follows: 

- A ground unit proposes the strike up to the Combined Arms Command Post, either echelon by echelon or skip echelon. At the same time, the Air Force Operations Section is reporting to the same level's Air Force Command Post. After the strike request receives the Group Army commander's approval, the Air Force command system passes orders down to the aviation unit to act. 

- The call for an air strike must have a set amount of advance time, and must take into consideration the transmission time, the time for the aviation unit to organize for action, and the necessary time to fly to the target. 

During coordinated Army-Air Force operations, there is also a method for a type of temporary request (linshi shenqing) for emergency action. If a ground forces unit temporarily proposes a request for air support based on a new situation that arises during a battle or on a new target, an aviation unit can act quickly. Under these conditions, there is no way to make an advance plan, so preparations will be hasty, the pilots will not have enough time to become familiar with target material and understand the relevant situation, and the aircraft that are sent out to a target with unknown characteristics may carry inappropriate weapons; therefore, it is oftentimes difficult to achieve good attack results. 

METHODS OF COORDINATING ACTION 

Coordination between ground force artillery units and PLAAF bomber and ground attack aircraft units normally is organized on the method of target and time differentiation, and the following must be clear: 

- Which targets are whose. 

- Times for attacking each target. 

- The height of each ground artillery shell's trajectory. 

- Each aircraft's operating altitude. 

- Times and methods for the ground artillery to indicate targets for aviation troops and for ground artillery to suppress enemy defenses. 

The primary means of coordination between aviation troops and ground air defense units is air space differentiation (qufen kongyu). Besides this, they can coordinate using the methods of target, altitude, and heading differentiation. 

When bomber and ground attack aircraft units strike targets along the battle line, they must be clear on the principles of bombing at a safe distance. In addition, when friendly aircraft pass through the battle line, everyone must be clear on the methods of time, sorties, sectors and altitude, ground-air identification, and target identification. There must also be methods for communicating with the Operations Section and Target Controller Section. 

At the present time, the primary methods for ground-air target recognition and identification, and marking the battle line includes the use of IFF, small navigation beacons, beacon markers, air-to-ground remote control smoke generating equipment, and aircraftlaunched color signal flares. Ground units discharge smoke screens and arrange panel signals. Radio signals are the primary means of communication, and visual signals are the alternate means. Visual signals should be selected according to the season, weather, and terrain characteristics. They should accurately grasp the timing, and pay attention to security to avoid revealing friendly force movements and intentions to the enemy. 

COMBAT ACTIONS

SEIZING LOCAL AIR SUPERIORITY AT KEY TIMES IN THE CAMPAIGN

Local air superiority (jubu zhikongquan) is the power to control the initiative of a certain air space during a certain time. Grasping air superiority is the most effective method of protecting and supporting ground unit operations. The two methods for aviation troops to gain air superiority are aerial combat (kongzhong jiaozhan) and attacking enemy airfields (tuji di jichang). 

Since China's aviation power is relatively weak today, the PLAAF should use aerial combat as the primary method and attacking enemy airfields as the alternate method. When engaging in aerial combat, bombers and ground attack aircraft are the primary means of conducting attacks on the enemy's major airfields in order to destroy aircraft, kill personnel, damage the runway and other important facilities, and weaken and suppress other attacking forces. During the planning and implementation phases, however, China must be careful to conceal friendly force intentions and cleverly choose the right time in order to be successful. 

Interceptors are the primary means of conducting aerial combat in order to impede, slow up, and destroy the enemy's air strike weapons. During the planning and implementation phases, the PLAAF should combine airfield alerts, aerial reconnaissance, and airborne search and destroy missions in order not to lose the opportunity to destroy the enemy's air attack. 

After attacking an airfield, the PLAAF should use a few interceptors or ground attack aircraft to select the appropriate time to conduct blocking actions against the enemy's airfield, or use a few ground attack aircraft, in coordination with local forces and the militia, to attack the enemy's important radar stations and communication facilities in order to destroy and disrupt the enemy's operations command. 

DESTROYING ENEMY PREPARATIONS TO ATTACK

In order to make use of the Group Army's combat preparedness and to inhibit the enemy's preparations to attack, aviation troops should be timely in countering the enemy's aerial attack, striking the enemy while it is waiting for the opportunity to attack, and, under the proper conditions, the PLAAF should carry out aerial firepower counter-preparations. 

RESISTING ENEMY AIR ATTACK PREPARATIONS: In order to oppose the enemy's aerial firepower preparations (kangji diren de hangkong huoli zhunbei) and to protect friendly ground forces and important targets in the war area, the PLAAF's interceptors are used as the primary means to attack the enemy's bombers and fighter-bombers on their way. During intervals between the enemy's attacks, the PLAAF can use a part of its bomber force to conduct brief, vicious counterattacks against the enemy's primary forces, such as the largest artillery and tactical rocket positions used for attacking friendly ground forces. At the same time, the PLAAF must organize to protect its airfields against enemy air raids, and make every effort to avoid or reduce losses. 

STRIKING ENEMY HOLDING AREAS AND ADVANCING FORCES: Depending upon the overall situation, the PLAAF needs to accurately use its aviation troops to attack the enemy while it is waiting for the opportunity to attack. The purpose of this attack is to destroy the enemy during its main preparatory period, with the goal of weakening the enemy's attack forces and delaying its offensive actions. 

- The primary targets for the attack are the areas where the enemy is massing its forces, such as tanks and armored vehicles, etc. 

- The best time for the attack is before the enemy has dispersed or concealed its forces in the massing area, just before they depart, or as the tanks and mechanized units pass over bridges, through passes, or along roads where maneuver is difficult. 

- The PLAAF uses various combat methods during an attack, such as using the proper aviation weapons based on the target's characteristics, and conducting aerial mine laying along routes the enemy must take. 

CARRYING OUT AIR FIREPOWER COUNTER-PREPARATIONS: The primary mission of air firepower counter-preparations (shishi hangkong huoli fanzhunbei) is to coordinate with the ground artillery against the main attacking group, in order to attack in strength to weaken the enemy's attack forces and to delay the enemy's attack. 

The PLAAF normally uses bomber and ground attack aircraft units, protected by interceptors, to attack the enemy's first echelon divisions, tactical missiles, rockets, and artillery. Under certain circumstances, the PLAAF should also attack first line airfields that have fighter-bombers assigned. 

The best time to use air firepower counter-preparations is just before the enemy conducts its firepower preparations, but this timing is difficult to control. In order to organize at the appropriate time, the campaign command personnel must use each type of reconnaissance to clearly determine and keep track of the enemy situation, make the proper evaluation, and organize unit action. 

The length of time for air firepower counter-preparations is determined by the nature of the target, the size of forces involved and the power of the weapons. Normally, it is required that there be relatively intense firepower for a short period of time, concentrating the assault to deal a serious blow to the attacking enemy. The duration is determined by the specific situation. 

When organizing air firepower to counter-preparations, the PLAAF must retain a certain amount of reserve forces in order to cope with an enemy attack after the counter-preparations attack. 

SUPPORTING GROUND FORCES IN RESISTING ENEMY ATTACKS AND HOLDING MAJOR DEFENSIVE AREAS

Air Force support to the ground units to protect positions and impede enemy attacks is the most intense aspect of war. The PLAAF uses its ground attack aircraft, bombers, and interceptors to carry out this mission as follows: 

- Ground attack aircraft will be used primarily for air firepower support of important positions. 

- Bombers can also be used to conduct raids against the advancing enemy. 

- Interceptors can be used against enemy bombers and armed helicopters that are trying to attack defensive positions. 

Right after the enemy initiates an attack, the PLAAF should seize the opportunity to conduct air firepower support. The main targets during an attack should be based on the intentions of the Combined Anus commander and the enemy's attack situation. Based on these, the PLAAF can provide effective firepower support to the ground units and influence the battle along the front. Normally, the PLAAF's mission is to destroy or suppress enemy artillery and tactical missiles supporting the assault, and to attack the enemy's tank and armored troops massing in the rear. 

As soon as the enemy breaks through the PLA's front line positions, the PLAAF's ground attack aircraft units should coordinate with artillery units to attack the enemy's artillery and rocket positions. Bomber units should be used to attack the enemy's second echelon forces, to impede them from entering the attack, and to coordinate quickly with obstacle -emplacing units to carry out aerial mine laying, support defending units, quickly close up attack avenues, and stop the enemy from expanding its attack. 

When the enemy conducts a tactical nuclear strike in order to make a breach in the PLA's lines, the PLAAF should use its ground attack aircraft units to attack the enemy's massed armor that is entering the attack area, and to support ground units to impede the enemy from entering deeper into friendly territory. 

In order to provide smooth support to ground units who are defending positions, aviation units should clearly understand the ground troops' locations and targets, should make early preparations for action, and then should wait for the call to attack. 

SUPPORTING GROUND FORCE UNIT COUNTERATTACKS

A counterattack is meant to 1) destroy an attacking enemy which has broken through, and 2) to stabilize the defensive posture. This is an important time for the PLAAF's aviation troops, who must concentrate their force to carry out support to the counterattacking units. 

PROVIDING COVER FOR THE COUNTERATTACKING UNIT: In order to ensure the safety of friendly counterattacking units during movement and during combat, the PLAAF should use intercepter units to coordinate with AAA and SAM units to strengthen air cover. In order for aviation troops to complete their air cover mission, they should always know the counterattacking units' deployment area, movement times, route, and engagement areas, and should especially know the limited time and area for gaining local air superiority. The PLAAF should also understand the methods for coordinating operations with each type of air defense weapon in order to coordinate all actions. 

LAUNCHING AN AIR ASSAULT: In order to ensure that ground units can smoothly conduct a counterattack and destroy the enemy who has encroached deeply into the PLA's defensive area, the PLAAF will normally use bomber and ground attack aircraft units before the ground forces launch their counterattack to destroy and suppress important enemy targets in the area where friendly forces will conduct the main attack. 

The procedures for friendly aviation, artillery, and rocket units to carry out an attack in terms of place, target, time, and force is decided by the campaign commander. The aviation troop commander can also make target recommendations based upon the intentions of higher echelons. As such, the aviation troop commander proposes ideas and requests approval from the campaign commander. Under normal conditions, an air attack's main targets are the enemy's tactical missiles, rockets, massed artillery, tanks, and massed armor directly in front of the PLA's counterattacking units, as well as the rear echelon units and command posts, etc. 

The timing for an attack with air power is usually prior to, or at the same time as, a ground artillery offensive. When friendly ground force units conduct a night counterattack, the PLAAF generally does not carry out an air power attack. 

When the ground troops are counterattacking, the air and ground situation changes quickly. In order to guard against mistakenly injuring friendly troops, friendly forces must strictly adhere to the principles of ground-air cooperation, strengthen ground-air liaison, accurately understand the battlefield situation and targets' positions, clearly regulate the bombing safety line and air-to-ground IFF, as well as methods for the ground to identify targets for the aviation troops, etc. 

SUPPORT COUNTERATTACKING UNITS TO DESTROY THE ATTACKING ENEMY: In order to provide cover for counterattacking units and to ensure that they split up, surround, and destroy the attacking enemy, the PLAAF should use ground attack aircraft units to coordinate with ground artillery to destroy and suppress the enemy's massed tanks and armor, artillery, and tactical missiles, as well as those primary firepower positions being used against friendly forces. Bombers and ground attack aircraft should be concentrated as a main force to attack the enemy's rear echelon units and those reinforcing the enemy, to slow down their movement, and isolate the reserve forces. Interceptors should be used to reinforce air cover and ensure the safety of the main strength of the counterattacking force, to blockade the surrounded enemy, and to keep the enemy from receiving air support and resupplies. After the ground troops successfully counterattack, aviation troops should continue to move and adjust deployments to provide cover and support for the counterattacking units. 

COORDINATE WITH GROUND FORCE UNITS TO DESTROY AIRBORNE TROOPS

 Aviation troop coordination with ground units to destroy enemy airborne troops is an important function in shattering the enemy's attack and in stabilizing the defensive posture. When enemy airborne troops are massing and waiting to depart, the ideal situation for the PLAAF is to use its bombers to conduct attacks and destroy them at the air base. However, the PLAAF's operational capability is limited, and can only organize to carry this out under certain conditions. 

The campaign commander should use various reconnaissance methods to determine the enemy's actions in a timely manner, to be ready to take advantage of any combat opportunity, and carry out continuous attacks at the farthest distance possible. Once the enemy's troops are loaded and en route, the PLAAF should use its interceptors as the primary method of attacking the aircraft in the air. This is the aviation troops' most advantageous time to counter airborne operations. 

When the enemy's airborne troops are landing, the PLAAF should use its bombers and ground attack aircraft units to attack before they get a foothold. The PLAAF should bottle up their advancing route, attack those airborne forces moving toward defensive positions, and directly support the counter-airborne operational units to surround and destroy the airborne troops. 

In order to protect ground units who are countering airborne operations, PLAAF interceptors should, under certain conditions, coordinate with the ground air defense troops to seize local air superiority over the area where the ground troops are countering airborne operations.

 During operations to counter airborne forces, time is urgent because the situation changes. Therefore, there must be a pre-arranged, coordinated anti-airborne operations plan between the Army and Air Force, and aviation troops must have advance planning and preparation. As a result, unified command and communications must be established quickly in the operations area to carry out uninterrupted command. 

AERIAL RECONNAISSANCE

Aerial reconnaissance is one of the primary means of obtaining intelligence so the campaign commander can make timely decisions and act accordingly. Aerial reconnaissance can be done in a relatively short, timely period to ascertain the enemy's force deployment, direction of movement, and the situation of the rear area facilities and transportation, etc. 

Normally, the PLAAF and Group Army, primarily using specialized reconnaissance units, conduct campaign aerial reconnaissance according to the Front Army commander's intentions. Aviation units, primarily using an Air Division's subordinate Reconnaissance Flight (zhencha fendui), carry out tactical aerial reconnaissance according to the Group Army commander's orders and requirements. In addition, any type of combat aircraft can conduct visual reconnaissance missions. If an Air Division's subordinate Reconnaissance Flight cannot satisfy operational needs, the campaign commander can request the Front Army to have the Air Force-Group Army dispatch reconnaissance forces. 

Aerial reconnaissance activity is conducted throughout the defensive campaign. During the campaign preparation phase, PLAAF reconnaissance should clearly focus on the enemy's forces massing along the friendly force's defensive front, especially the enemy's

missiles, nuclear weapons, artillery, and tanks, as well as their campaign reserve forces deployment area, and activities that could lead to carrying out an attack. 

During the campaign itself, reconnaissance forces should also clearly focus on the developing situation of the enemy's attack, the enemy's reserve forces movement forward, and the enemy's situation on the flanks of the PLA's counterattacking troops. 

The results of aerial reconnaissance should be combined with material from all forms of reconnaissance into a synthesized analysis. After checking the analysis, it can then be used as data for the campaign commander to make operational plans and command the operations. 

All of the above combat actions are based on the requirements of defending a Group Army field position and what the PLAAF can do to carry out its mission. In future defensive operations, the PLAAF can only focus on organizing itself to carry out its mission based on the enemy and friendly situation, on the campaign command commander's intentions, and on the principle of using concentrated power.



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Unconventional Threat podcast - Threats Foreign and Domestic: 'In Episode One of Unconventional Threat, we identify and examine a range of threats, both foreign and domestic, that are endangering the integrity of our democracy'