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People's Liberation Navy - Organizational Structure

Overall Structure

The PLAN's overall structure can be viewed from four perspectives:

  • Tiered structure
  • Administrative structure
  • Leadership and command structure
  • Logistics and technical support structure

Tiered Structure

The PLAN's tiered structure consists of the following five levels:

  • PLAN Headquarters is an MR leader-grade organization. Until 2004, both the PLAN commander and political commissar were grade-3 officers. This issue became somewhat blurred in mid-2004, when the PLAN commander was elevated as a member of the Military Commission, which is a grade-2 billet. Even though the commander was elevated to a grade-2 officer, the PLAN as an organization remained a grade-3 organization. Furthermore, the commander and political commissar are still considered co-equals within the PLAN, even though the political commissar is still a grade-3 officer.
  • The PLAN has three Fleet Headquarters (North Sea, East Sea, and South Sea), each of which is an MR deputy leader-grade organization. Therefore, since the late 1980s, each fleet commander has been concurrently assigned as an MR deputy commander.
  • Each fleet has several subordinate bases, which are jun deputy leader-grade organizations, and can be categorized into three types: support bases, test bases, and training bases. Fleet aviation is at the same level.
    • Of the total number of bases, the following eight are considered major support bases:

    • North Sea Fleet (NSF)
      • Qingdao
      • Lushun
    • East Sea Fleet (ESF)
      • Zhoushan
      • Fujian
      • Shanghai
    • South Sea Fleet (SSF)
      • Guangzhou
      • Yulin
      • Zhanjiang
      The PLAN also has other specialized bases as follows:
      • Huludao is a missile test, research and development, and training base
      • Jianggezhuang is for the PLAN's nuclear powered submarines only
      • A third type of base, which may or may not be co-located with a support base, is a training base or training center
  • Some support bases have subordinate division leader-grade garrisons, which are responsible primarily for coastal patrol, coastal defense, and protecting fishing boats. The PLAN has six subordinate garrisons:
    • NSF: Dalian and Weihai
    • ESF: Xiamen
    • SSF: Shantou, Beihai, and Xisha (Paracel Islands)
  • Vessel zhidui, which are usually subordinate to a support base, and dadui, which can be subordinate to a support base or a zhidui.

Administrative Structure

The PLAN's administrative structure at each level throughout the chain-of-command consists of four first-level departments: Headquarters, Political, Logistics, and Equipment.
Each first-level department has several second- level departments that have administrative and/or functional responsibilities for subordinate organizations within the headquarters and throughout the PLAN. It is not always clear what the differences between the two responsibilities are, but some administrative responsibilities include housing, food, and transportation support, while functional responsibilities include plans and budgeting.

Plan Headquarters

When the PLAN Headquarters was established in Beijing in 1949, it had three firstlevel departments-Headquarters, Political, and Logistics. In April 1952, Naval Aviation was added as a fourth first-level department. During the 1950s, the PLAN also formed various other first-level departments, but they were eventually reorganized, abolished, or merged with other departments. During the 1960s to 1990s, the PLAN established different departments to manage vessel equipment and technical issues. Following the establishment of the PLA's General Equipment Department (GED) in 1998, the PLAN merged these departments into the Equipment Department. Since then, the PLAN's administrative organization has included four first-level departments- Headquarters, Political, Logistics, and Equipment. The directors are the same grade as the PLAN deputy commanders and the three fleet commanders.

    PLAN Headquarters Department

    The PLAN Headquarters Department is the military command organization for the Navy's leaders. The director is the Chief of Staff. The Headquarters Department consists of several functional departments and military studies research organizations. The primary functional departments, listed in alphabetical order, are as follows:

    • Communications
    • Intelligence
    • Military Affairs
    • Operations
    • Training
    PLAN Political Department

    The Political Department is the leading organization responsible for political work. It consists of several functional departments, plus the military court and procuratorate (i.e., the Inspector General). The primary functional departments are as follows:

    • Cadre (Officer)
    • Discipline Inspection
    • Organization
    • Propaganda
    • Security
    PLAN Logistics Department

    In 1985, the PLAN changed the existing four-tiered logistics supply structure - PLAN Headquarters, Fleet Headquarters, support base, and units-to a three-tiered structure- PLAN Headquarters, support base, and units. As such, the three fleet headquarters no longer have a logistics administrative structure. The Logistics Department is the leading organization responsible for managing logistics support. Because it is the largest component of the PLAN, the Logistics Department is organized more like a command than a department. As such, it has a director and a political commissar. The primary second-level functional departments are as follows:

    • Audit
    • Engineering Design
    • Finance
    • Health
    • Military Transportation
    • Port, Airfield, and Barraks Management
    • Quartermaster, Materials, and Fuel

    The PLAN has some second-level departments within the logistics organizational structure that are unique to the Navy. The first organization is the Engineering Command Department, and the second is the Vessel On-Shore Service Department. The Engineering Command Department is responsible for construction of all naval facilities, including airfields, ports, air defense, and buildings. The Vessel On-Shore Service Departments are responsible for logistics and technical support for naval vessel units while they are in port. The logistics support system is primarily responsible for supporting personnel living conditions, port and shore base facilities construction, plus supply and technical support for all types of munitions (including vessel gun shells, missiles, torpedoes, and mines) and land-based common-use weapons and equipment. Although the PLAN supplies units with special-use materials, the military regions supply them with common-use materials.

    PLAN Equipment Department

    The Equipment Department is primarily responsible for technical support for all PLAN equipment and weapon systems from concept development to retirement. As such, the Equipment Department is responsible for the PLAN's special-use equipment throughout the following seven steps:

    • Plans and theoretical evaluation
    • Technical design
    • Construction design
    • Inspection during construction
    • Test and evaluation
    • Delivery of the vessel to the unit
    • Lifetime repair support

    The Equipment Department has subordinate factories, repair facilities, depots, warehouses, and purchasing stations. Because it is one of the largest components of the PLAN, the Equipment Department is organized more like a command than a department. As such, it has a director and a political commissar. The primary second-level functional departments are as follows:

    • Armament
    • Comprehensive Plans
    • Defense Industry Regional Representative Bureaus
    • Electronics
    • Equipment
    • Inspection and Management
    • Vessel Technology

Leadership and Command Structure

The PLAN has a four-tiered on-shore vertical and lateral leadership and command structure. Within the PLAN's vertical structure:

  • PLAN Headquarters is the highest tier, is the service's supreme command staff, and is the CMC's and Four General Departments' functional department that implements leadership over PLAN units.
  • The three fleet headquarters make up the second tier. They are the campaign component and constitute the leadership and command staff for a certain strategic direction. Furthermore, the three fleet headquarters receive leadership not only from PLAN Headquarters but also from their respective military region headquarters.
  • Support bases make up the third tier and are primarily responsible for the comprehensive support of all naval forces within their area of responsibility.
  • Garrisons and zhidui make up the fourth tier.

When the fleets conduct mobile task-force operations, the PLAN employs only a three-tiered at-sea command structure:

  • PLAN Headquarters
  • Fleet Headquarters
  • Zhidui

Within the PLAN's lateral leadership and command structure, all four tiers have fairly equivalent staffs and functional departments, even though the names may be slightly different:

  • PLAN Headquarters, support bases, and garrisons have four first-level departments- Headquarters, Political, Logistics, and Equipment
  • The Fleet Headquarters have only two first-level departments-Headquarters and Political. They do not have a Logistics or Equipment Department
  • Support bases and garrisons have four first-level departments-Headquarters, Political, Logistics, and Equipment
  • Zhidui have three first-level departments- Headquarters, Political, and an On-Shore Service Department, which is equivalent to a Logistics Department

Logistics and Technical Support Structure

Finally, the PLAN also has a three-tiered onshore logistics and technical support structure that skips the fleet headquarters:

  • PLAN Headquarters
  • Support bases
  • Garrisons and zhidui



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