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PLA Brigades and Battalions

The PLA continued in 2015 to convert divisions to brigades with the idea this will increase effectiveness by boosting overall combat capabilities. This is part of an overall modernization effort to streamline the force and reduce non-combat positions such as political entertainment units or headquarters staffs. Another element is placing non-commissioned officers in positions traditionally held by officers or by having civilians take over those duties.

By 2001 the PLA was following the concept the US Army initiated with the Stryker Brigades, making medium type brigades the most important formation. These stress lighter armored personnel carriers and artillery. The PLA created new light mechanized Group Army (GA) and amphibious mechanized GA units. The PLA also intensified its effort to turn divisions of Group Army (GA) into smaller but better equipped brigades. The future of the PLA's "heavy" armies, such as No. 38, 39 and 54, was increasingly unclear. There was an increase in experimentation with new types of army formations. Some Divisions were transformed into brigades to accelerate the transition to a smaller overall force. Two or three Chinese Army armored divisions thinned down to brigade size. The No. 27 GA, for instance, turned a former division into three brigades. A similar evolution was also underway in the No. 40 GA. These two units, once restructured, may be assigned to missions focused on Taiwan. Some heavy GAs retained some divisions and turned others into brigades, No. 1 and No. 31 GA being two cases in point.

Some maneuver brigades are organized as separate brigades, designed to have greater ability to accomplish independent missions without further allocation of forces from a higher tactical-level headquarters. Separate brigades have some subordinate units that are the same as in a divisional brigade of the same type (for example, the headquarters), some that are especially tailored to the needs of a separate brigade, and some that are the same as units of this type found at division level [when present]. Maneuver brigades are designed to be able to serve as the basis for forming a brigade tactical group (BTG), if necessary. However, a brigade, with or without becoming a BTG, can fight as part of a division or DTG, or as a separate unit.

In the PLA force structure, the basic unit of action is the battalion. Battalions are designed to be able to execute basic combat missions as part of a larger tactical force. A battalion most frequently would fight as part of a brigade, BTG, or DTG. A battalion can also serve as the basis for forming a battalion-size detachment (BDET), if necessary.

Companies most frequently fight as part of a battalion or BTG. However, companies are designed to be able to serve as the basis for forming a company-size detachment (CDET), if necessary. The smallest unit typically expected to conduct independent fire and maneuver tactical tasks is the platoon. Platoons are designed to be able to serve as the basis for forming a reconnaissance or fighting patrol. A platoon typically fights as part of a company, battalion, or detachment.

The combined arms battalion, each one including almost all types of basic military arms and professions, has become a basic combat unit of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA), enabling the service to react much more quickly in the fast-paced dynamic of modern warfare, gaining more advantages, experts said on Sunday. As the PLA is accelerating its transformation process, the combined arms battalion has now become an all-new basic combat unit and joined combat sequences.

Compared with a traditional battalion, a combined arms battalion has almost all types of basic military arms and professions that the army has to offer, including dozens of professions and hundreds of positions. This means a combined arms battalion could have more than a dozen types of different units at its disposal, including infantry units, tank units, artillery units, aviation units, light armor vehicle units and amphibious assault units, rather than, for instance, a battalion full of only tank units like in the past, a military expert who asked not to be named told the Global Times, noting that each different combined arms battalion could have different focuses based on the battlefield situation.

"The combined arms battalion is not a simple permutation and combination, it requires highly efficient management of all different arms units and integrated utilization," said a senior officer at the PLA Army Staff's training department in March 2020, noting that this modularized, multifunctional force structure can achieve fast and flexible combinations based on the situation on the battlefield, forming different kinds of combat patterns and letting all combat factors make the best of the system's potential.

Multiple types of combined arms battalions are already embedded into the PLA Army's combat system, achieving multiple source perception in combat command, high integration in combat factors and multidimensional expansion of combat space, the PLA Daily said, noting that the army troops' mobilization combat, multidimensional offense and defense capabilities have been greatly enhanced. More combined arms battalions could be established and more training will be held to make this model become even more powerful.

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Page last modified: 01-08-2021 14:09:22 ZULU