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PLAAF in the Korean War

By 1953 the Chinese Communist Air Force [CCAF] possessed one of the largest jet fighter forces in the world. In attaining this position of strength, the CCAF had become almost entirely a creature of the Soviet Air Force. While the initial development of the CCAF is a bit obscure, an embryonic force was formed before 1937, when a small number of reliable Communist youth were selected to receive pilot training under Soviet tutelage. Their training was discontinued when the political leaders of Sinkiang chose to renew their allegiance to the Chinese Nationalist Government (Kuomintang). In the following decade, no known attempt was made to establish an air unit.

The second phase came in 1946 when the Chinese Communists again attempted to establish an air force. As a result of this attempt, at least one training unit was established in eastern Manchuria. Because equipment was inadequate and in poor condition, the rate of progress was very slow and little training was actually accomplished. During 1947-48 training virtually came to a standstill; however, a change was apparent when a number of trained Chinese Nationalist air personnel and aircraft either defected or were captured. During the latter part of the phase, the airforce began to take form.

Soon after the establishment of the People's Government on 01 October 1949, in Peiping, the General Headquarters of the CCAF was established. Prior to 1950 the CCAF existed only as an embryonic force. It was equipped with a varied collection of discarded American, British, and Japanese World War II aircraft. The third phase was marked by the true development of this nucleus. This change did not begin until immediately after the signing of the Sino-Soviet treaty of 1950, which provided a force of Soviet officers and technicians for command and tutelage of the proposed indigenous force. With the treaty, the Chinese received both World War II piston planes and modern jets.

The actual agreement as to the extent of Soviet support and the resultant strength of the Chinese Communist Air Force is unclear. It was presumed, during the early period of development, that the goal of the CCAF was to establish an air arm of sufficient strength to neutralize effectively the offensive and defensive capability of the Chinese Nationalist Air Force. Thus, its mission was to activate tactical units, conduct operational training and continue to train additional aircrew and ground personnel. Because of its Soviet origin and training, and the type of aircraft equipment, it is probable that the CCAF was being developed as a tactical force in support of the People's Liberation Army.

PLAAF Korean War Organization

Control and guidance of the Chinese Communist armed forces were vested in the People's Revolutionary Military Committee, under the chairmanship of Mao Tse-tung. Subordinateto the Committee, and at the top of the military hierarchy, was the People's Revolutionary Army Headquarters headed by Chu Teh. Immediately subordinate to this military high command was the headquarters of the Air Force. While the organi-zation of the CCAF is assumed to resemble closely that of the Soviet Air Force, some changes in the organization occured as the CCAF attained greater maturity. The Commanding General of the CCAF in 1953 was Liu Ya-lou.

Air divisions were the main tactical organizationin the CCAF. The divisions were designed to include three regiments; however, as of 1953 only two regiments had been activated. The air regiments of the CCAF corresponded roughly to the wartime Groups of the USAF. They were of homogenous aircraft composition, with aircraft strengths varying with the roles of the regiments. Jet fighter regiments were believed to be equipped with 37 aircraft. Each regiment in turn appeared to be composed of three or four squadrons, at least from the stand-point of flight operations. While the function of the air squadron is obscure, it appeared to he primarily tactical. The mission of each CCAF tactical unit was determined by its type.

Fighter units were primarily charged with the mission of providing air defense for China, including Manchuria and Communist-held North Korea. The Korean War provided secondary missions for jet-fighter units which included combat training and the development of jet air-to-air tactics. The missions of the other types of tactical units were less apparent than those of fighter units. The light-bomber units were primarily responsible for conducting offensive air operations against hostile land and sea forces andinstallations adjacent to China and Manchuria. Ground-attack units were charged with providing the close support for the Chinese Communist ground units in front-line areas. Transport units had the mission of flying air lifts of critical materials and air personnel throughout China and Manchuria. in support of routine and specific operations.

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