Western Theater Command
The five theater commands, which are identified by their strategic locations in east, south, west, north and central China, base their army headquarters in Fuzhou, Fujian Province; Nanning, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region; Lanzhou, Gansu Province; Jinan, Shandong Province and Shijiazhuang, Hebei Province, respectively. The five replaced the former seven military area commands in Beijing, Nanjing, Chengdu, Ji'nan, Shenyang, Lanzhou and Guangzhou as of early 2016. Infrastructure, including communication facilities in the previous seven military area commands, has been taken into consideration for the locations of the headquarters, so that follow-up work on military reform could start as soon as possible.
China's Ministry of National Defense (MND) held a special press conference in Beijing on February 1, 2016, at which the Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun answered journalists' questions about the adjustment and establishment of the theater commands. The new system separates the combat and construction or logistic missions. The theater commands will focus on engagement, while the PLA army, navy and air force will focus on developing their respective forces, said the source. All five commands are expected to have their own army and air force, while naval forces are not likely to be deployed by all five commands. There's no need to build a temporary command system when war erupts, as the joint operations of each theater command will suffice, which is also helpful for troops to successfully fulfill their training and mission, said the source. The five commands will only deploy their own force against security threats, and they need to report to the CMC for additional support.
The Army's subordinate organs within the five theater commands are built on the basis of certain functions and institutions of the former MACs, the Navy's subordinate organs within the five theater commands are built on the basis of relevant naval fleets, and the Air Force's subordinate organs within five theater commands are built on the basis of the air force of former MACs. To date, the adjustment and establishment of the services' organs within five theater commands has been completed.
Border incidents have recently occurred between troops of China and India. Chinese border defense troops have bolstered border control measures and made necessary moves in response to India's recent, construction of defense facilities across the border into Chinese territory in the Galwan Valley region in May 2020. Indian media reports said China deployed 5,000 more troops to the border area with India, and diplomats of the two countries have started talks on a peaceful resolution.
Since the Doklam standoff with India in 2017, the Chinese military has expanded its arsenal with weapons like the Type 15 tank, Z-20 helicopter and GJ-2 drone that should give China the advantage in high-altitude conflicts should they arise. Both the Type 15 tank and the PCL-181 howitzer were displayed in the high-elevation plateau region of Southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region in a China Central Television report on military exercises in January 2020.
China's Type 15 tank made its public debut at the National Day military parade on 01 October 2019. With a powerful engine, the Type 15 lightweight main battle tank can effectively operate in plateau regions difficult for heavier tanks, and with its advanced fire control systems and 105 millimeter caliber armor-piercing main gun, it can outgun any other light armored vehicles at high elevations.
China's most advanced vehicle-mounted howitzer, the PCL-181, also debuted at the parade. At 25 tons, the PCL-181 is lighter, faster and can endure longer than the previous 40-ton self-propelled howitzer on crawler tracks. It can digitally deploy its gun at the press of a button, with automatic calibration and semi-automatic reloading.
Another new weapon which debuted at the parade was a multiple-rocket launcher system, which uses an 8x8 wheeled high-mobility chassis and carries two sets of four 370-millimeter rockets, making it viable for high-altitude deployment, according to publicly available reports.
In the air, China unveiled the Z-20 utility helicopter at the parade. This medium-lift helicopter can adapt to all kinds of terrain and weather and can be used on missions including personnel and cargo transport, search and rescue and reconnaissance. The Z-20 can operate in oxygen-depleted plateaus thanks to its powerful homemade engine, according to Chen Guang, vice general manager of Avicopter, the helicopter branch of Aviation Industry Corporation of China that developed the helicopter.
Joining the Z-20 is the modified Z-8G large transport helicopter displayed at the Fifth China Helicopter Exposition held in Tianjin in October 2019. Focusing on plateau operations, the Z-8G is the first of its kind in China and can take off from 4,500 meters above sea level with a ceiling higher than 6,000 meters.
At Airshow China 2018, the Chinese Air Force unveiled the GJ-2 armed reconnaissance drone, which has a higher ceiling and can carry more payload than the previous GJ-1. Reports said it can be used to patrol the long border in high-altitude areas like Tibet.
These specially designed weapons have boosted the Chinese military's combat capabilities in high-altitude regions, enabling it to better safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity, Chinese analysts said.
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