Western Theater Air Force
The 2017 Doklam crisis which played out between China and India in a part of Bhutan located east of Sikkim appears to have shifted China's strategic objectives, with China more than doubling its total number of air bases, air defence positions and heliports near the Indian border over the past three years.
The Air Force in the Western Theater of the Chinese People's Liberation Army was mainly established by adjusting and forming the air force of the original military region. the Western Air Force Air Force was formed by the merger of the original Lanzhou Air Force and the former Chengdu Military Air Force. The PLA Air Force in the Western Theater is stationed in Chengdu, Sichuan Province. The air force in the western theater came from the former Chengdu Air Force and Lanzhou Air Force.
In February 2016, President Xi conferred military flags on the PLA’s five newly established theater commands: the Eastern, Southern, Western, Northern, and Central Theaters. The theaters are responsible for warfighting and improving routine readiness through joint operations, training, and strategy and plans development. These changes required the reassignment of some units.
In 2016, the PLAAF established five new theater air force headquarters and adapted its mission and structure to align with the PLA’s ongoing reforms. In February 2016, General Ma Xiaotian, the PLAAF commander, and Lieutenant General Yu Zhongfu, the service’s political commissar, urged the development of a “joint operations mindset” at a ceremony marking the creation of the theater air forces. They directed the service to streamline institutions, embrace a force-building role, and improve regulations to ensure standardization and discipline in carrying out reforms.
The adjustment and formation of a theater air force is an urgent need to address national security threats and effectively fulfill military missions. The air force will shoulder the important tasks entrusted by the party and the people with a new perspective and responsibility.
Air Force Commander: Lieutenant General Hou Hshun, male, Han nationality, February 1957, Anda, Heilongjiang, member of the Communist Party of China, rank of lieutenant general in the Air Force. Former commander of the Air Force of the Chengdu Military Region. He was deputy commander of the Chinese People's Liberation Army's western theater and commander of the theater air force.
Cai Lishan, former director of the Air Force Political Department of the Chengdu Military Region, has assumed the post of director of the newly established Western Air Force Political Work Department. Major General Cai Lishan served in the Air Force for a long time, served as the deputy political commissar of the 15th Army of the Airborne Corps, and the head of the troops in Fujian. He served as the former director of the Political Department of the Air Force of the Chengdu Military Region by July 28, 2015.
Major General Wang Qilin, former deputy chief of staff of the Lanzhou Military Region Air Force, has served as deputy chief of staff of the Western Air Force. Wang Qilin served as the division commander of an aviation division in Shen Kong, the deputy commander of a test training base in the Air Force, and the deputy chief of staff of the Air Force in the Lanzhou Military Region. In July 2015, 20 military officers including Wang Qilin were promoted from the rank of Air Force major to the rank of Major General of the Air Force.
One air defense brigade was formed in 2014, and the personnel came from more than 30 units of the Air Force. Among them, only more than 30 were from ground-guided troops, and they were equipped with the latest weaponry equipment in the country. Practical problems such as shortage of professional talents, hard hardware conditions, and heavy tasks of new weapons are placed in front of them.
The party committee of the brigade issued an order to place troops in colleges and universities to explore and practice the "one-stop" combat power generation model launched by the Air Force from "theoretical training, operational training, and tactical drills, to live ammunition target testing, and to combat readiness." It is also proposed that the training will be completed on the shooting range, each battalion will compete, the first batch of winners will take over, and the last one will stand by.
For a time, the whole brigade set off a learning boom. The Standing Committee of the Brigade studied throughout the class, officers and soldiers repeatedly practiced weapons training practical subjects, colleges and weapons manufacturers were unskilled in guiding operations on the spot, and their ability to deal with emergencies was weak.
In half a year, the brigade officers and soldiers completed more than 10 professional and thousands of hours of training tasks such as combat command. Subsequently, the two battalions that were given priority to carry out live ammunition target test assessment. "4 shots and 4 hits!" They passed the higher level assessment with excellent results.
During the rectification and improvement assessment, problems such as railway loading and unloading, garrisoning, and weapon maintenance were exposed. A strong training group for various subjects was established to focus on the weaknesses of the short board and continue repeated training. There is no runner-up on the battlefield, everything is to win, and specific and practical issues are pushing for the construction of actual warfare.
In 2017, Zhu Rihe's military field, Yun-20 and Yun-9 made their first mixed formation appearance, flying across the training ground in seconds, accepting the review of President Xi and the people of the whole country. On the eve of the 2019 Lantern Festival, at a military airport in the southwestern hinterland, a regiment of the Air Force Transport Aviation Corps in the Western Theater was conducting long-range maneuver flight training across the day and night. Over the past two years after taking over, they have overcome the difficulties of training one by one and provided detailed data for the operational use of Yun-20. Combat strength has also been continually escalated and upgraded in battle training missions.
The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) organized a large-scale maneuver operation featuring thousands of paratroopers plus armored vehicles to the country's high-altitude northwestern region over a long distance from Central China's Hubei Province amid border tensions between China and India. The entire process was completed in just a few hours, demonstrating China's capability of quickly reinforcing border defenses when necessary, experts said on 07 June 2020. Using civilian airlines, logistical transportation channels and railways, several thousand paratroopers under a PLA Air Force airborne brigade recently maneuvered from Hubei to an undisclosed location in the plateaus of northwestern China thousands of kilometers away, China Central Television (CCTV) reported.
"This maneuver mission saw significant breakthroughs not only in the scale of mobilized troops but also means of transportation. [Using civilian transportation] substantially expanded our means of transporting forces and increased efficiency in maneuvering an entire organization of troops," Major Colonel Mao Lei, head of the training department at the airborne brigade, said on CCTV.
A PLA veteran with experience in maneuvering from inland to high-altitude regions of China for missions told the Global Times on condition of anonymity on Sunday that the scale and short time it took to finish the mobilization showed the PLA has the capability to project its power anywhere in China very quickly and send reinforcements to remote locations with harsh environments, including high elevation. This applies not only to paratroopers, who tend to be highly mobile, but also ground forces and warplanes, the veteran said, noting that they can form a multidimensional force in an integrated combat system.
By early 2020 PLA Western Theater Command had begun to integrate air defense systems of the Army and Air Force in a move experts said on Tuesday can complement each other's capabilities and better secure China's air security in joint operations in the region. All air defense battalions affiliated with an Army air defense brigade started to integrate into the chain of command of an Air Force base in turn, and assumed combat alert duties since July 2020.
The Air Force base has dispatched three batches of personnel from air defense, radar and communications units to the Army brigade to coordinate and unify related protocols, and this boosted both services' combat capability, the newspaper reported. Thanks to the integration, the Army air defense brigades have become key nodes in Air Force early warning systems, as Army radars are more accurate and make up for blind zones of the Air Force's early warning network, the report said, noting that the Army also gained a longer detection range that enabled troops to find enemies and prepare for attacks earlier, as the Air Force shares all intelligence through the network.
This forms a joint operations system, in which weapons and equipment are integrated cross-service. The Army and Air Force have different air defense missions. Usually the surface-to-air missile installations of the Air Force focus on defending key facilities and cover a longer range, while the Army's air defense systems are more mobile and would need to follow mechanized ground forces, but have less range, while the Air Force's long-range radars can see farther, they are less efficient against targets at low level, and that is where the Army's field air defense systems excel. Integrating the two will more efficiently cover all types of targets, and the more installations there are in the joint system, the stronger and resilient the system will be, as some installations could happen to be jammed by hostile electromagnetic interference but others will still do the work.
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