People's Liberation Army Air Force
China aims to build a strategic air force by 2020, which will become modern by 2035, and will be world-class by the mid-21st century, the Xinhua News Agency reported in November 2018. The primary mission of the PLA Air Force is the defense of the mainland, and most aircraft are assigned to this role. A smaller number of ground attack and bomber units are assigned to interdiction and possibly close air support, and some bomber units could be used for nuclear delivery. The force has only limited military airlift and reconnaissance capabilities.
The PLA's overall concept of operations is "Peoples War under Modern Conditions," which consists of tactical offensive actions in support of a basically defensive strategy. The primary land component strategy is forward presence and perimeter defense, with offensive operations intended to wear down an enemy which is on the offensive and attacking.
In this context, the role of the PLAAF is to provide homeland air defense, to direct support to the PLA ground forces. Air defense operations are primarily focused on surface to air missiles, with additional emphasis on counterattacks against enemy bases. The PLAAF's primary objectives would be to prevent the enemy from interfering in the PLA ground forces, with second objectives to conduct Close Air Support (CAS) and Interdiction operations.
The Soviet Union helped to establish the Air Force in 1949. The PLA Air Force was founded on 11 November 1949, and it was soon engaged in the war to resist U.S. and aid Korea, in the Korean War in the 1950s. On 19 June 1950, the first aeronautical unit of the People's Liberation Army -- the 4th Mixed Brigade -- was established, with Nie Fengzhi as the top commander. The Soviets began to provide aircraft in late 1951. Production technology came two years later. By 1956 China was assembling F-4s (copies of MiG-15s) and eight years later was producing both the F-5 (MiG-17) and the F-6 (MiG-19) under license. Meanwhile, Soviet instructors were training the new pilots in Soviet tactics. The withdrawal of Soviet aid in 1960 crippled China's aircraft industry. The industry declined markedly through 1963, further hindered by the high priority accorded to the competing missile and nuclear weapons program. The aircraft industry began to recover in about 1965, however, when China began providing F-4s and F-5s to North Vietnam.
Chinese pilots saw considerable action in the Korean War and, to a lesser extent, during the Taiwan Strait crisis of 1958. During the China-Vietnam border conflict of 1979, the Chinese avoided air battles, probably at least partly because they lacked the confidence to challenge Vietnam's air force, which though far smaller was better armed and trained. Chinese sources claim that the PLAAF achieved a 97.5 percent readiness rate and a 99.7 percent takeoff rate for its aircraft during the Sino-Vietnamese conflict in 1979. However, this was not a difficult feat, given low sortie rate.
Overall, the PLAAF launched some 8,500 sorties [including area familiarization, flights during the 30-day conflict, and postconflict sorties] over a period of two to three months. With some 700 aircraft deployed to the Vietnamese border, that suggests only a dozen sorties per aircraft over sixty-plus days. PLAAF fighter engines require a major overhaul after 300 to 350 hours of flying time, while the F100 engines on the F-16 require a substantial overhaul every 1300 hours. The PLAAF's "light front, heavy rear" strategy denies frontline air bases extensive maintenance and repair facilities. [Felix K. Chang "Beijing's reach in the South China Sea"]
The PLAAF has developed new training programs for the Air Force Academy and flight school, as well as short-term training courses, which are trained up to 60 percent of military personnel. In accordance with these programs increased time, the outlet to flight training and tactical exercises duration during a single flight. Number of training and trainer aircraft in 2005 increased by approximately 2.5 times. During flight training became actively use the new combat training aircraft L-15, developed with the participation of Russian specialists. Annual flight pilots combat units fighter, fighter-bomber and bomber aircraft reached 150 hours, and military transport - more than 200 hours.
At the same time the PLAAF increased the number of procedures during a flight training exercises. If previously posed only one - two learning tasks, it is now three - four. For example, the testing of long-range air missile elements of combat and combat air passing maneuver using missile and gun armament; testing of skills of fire, interference and countering maneuverable air defenses; working out how to identify, detect ground (sea) moving and stationary targets, performance targeting and use of guided and unguided aircraft weapons. interests in training and education is actively used and joint exercises of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), as well as training and exercises on a bilateral basis.
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