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PLAAF - 1985 Reorganiztion

From 1950 to 1971, the PLAAF created 50 operational air divisions. While most of these divisions had only two subordinate regiments, some had three. A typical PLAAF air division (shi) consisted of three regiments (tuan), each of which is assigned from 25 to 32 aircraft, but may actually have had more or fewer. Each division has two or three airfields, with one or two regiments per airfield. The regiment is the basic organization for training and operations. Each regiment was further broken down into three flights of three sections each.

The PLA Air Force underwent reorganization and streamlining as part of the general reduction in military forces begun in 1985. The PLAAF organized into air corps, ground-to-air missile corps, anti-aircraft artillery corps, radar corps, parachute corps and other professional forces. Before the 1985 reorganization, the Air Force reportedly had four branches: air defense, ground attack, bombing, and independent air regiments. The air corps consists of fighter plane units, bomber units, attack plane units, reconnaissance plane units and air transport units.

In peacetime the Air Force Directorate, under the supervision of the PLA General Staff Department, controlled the Air Force through Air Army headquarters located with, or in communication with, each of the seven military region headquarters. It is unclear how the 1985 reorganization and the incorporation of air support elements into the Group Armies affected air force organization. The army Aviation Corps was established in 1988 by the transfer of utility helicopters from the Air Force to support ground troops as transport a force. In war, control of the Air Force probably reverts to the regional commanders.

In 1986, the PLAAF converted one air division in each of the seven military regions to a division level transition training base. Since then, the PLAAF has gradually reduced the remaining 43 operational air divisions to 29. By 2010, the PLAAF had 29 operatonal air divisions - 20 fighter, 3 attack, 3 bomber, and 3 transport.

The largest Air Force organizational unit was the Division, which consisted of 17,000 personnel in three regiments. A typical air defense regiment had three squadrons of three flights; each flight has three or four aircraft. Each air division has 70 to 124 fighter planes or 70 to 90 bombers. As of 1996 Class-A combat regiments accounted for 95 percent of the total number of combat regiments, with 74% of pilots trained in all-weather flight. About half of all flight and air defense units are Category B units, equipped with old armaments and not receiving much training.

As of 1997 the PLA Air Force had a total strength of approximately 370,000, organized into 45 air divisions. Among them are five bomber divisions, 32 fighter divisions, six attack divisions, two transport divisions, 17 air defense divisions [with 220,000 troops], and one airborne army comprising three airborne divisions with 20,000 airborne troops.

During the period from 1995 to 2012 the number of personnel of the Air Force declined from 400 to 330 thousand people. The total number of combat aircraft decreased from 5300 to 1700. The number of bombers was reduced from 630 to abot 80. Significant changes in quantitative and qualitative terms occurred in fighter-bomber and ground attack aircraft. Of its composition were derived aircraft aviation support troops (close air support) Q-5, which in 1995 were 500 units, and modifications to Q-5C/D/E 2005 remained up to 300 units. In 2012 there were about 100 reconnaissance aircraft JZ-8F. Frontline fighter aircraft in the period from 1985 to 2012 were reduced from 4000 to abot 900 aircraft. In terms of the number of fourth generation fighters, China ranked second in the world after the US, ahead of Russia, which had no more than 230 of these machines. Out of service aircraft were withdrawn and the second part of the third generation. The total Air Force was composed of 33 air divisions: three bomber, four fighter-bomber, and 24 fighter divisions.

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Page last modified: 01-08-2021 14:09:00 ZULU