Asien — China’s National Defense in 2008

VI. The Air Force

The Air Force is a strate­gic ser­vice of the PLA, and the main force for car­ry­ing out air oper­a­tions. It is respon­si­ble for such tasks as safe­guard­ing the country’s ter­ri­to­r­i­al air space and ter­ri­to­r­i­al sov­er­eign­ty, and main­tain­ing a sta­ble air defense pos­ture nation­wide. It is main­ly com­posed of avi­a­tion, ground air defense, air­borne, sig­nal, radar, ECM, tech­ni­cal recon­nais­sance and chem­i­cal defense sections. 

His­to­ry of Devel­op­ment
The Air Force was found­ed on Novem­ber 11, 1949. The years from 1949 to 1953 wit­nessed the estab­lish­ment of an Air Force lead­ing organs in the CMC and in each of the mil­i­tary area com­mands; the cre­ation of the fight­er, bomber, attack­er, recon­nais­sance and trans­port, air­borne forces and a num­ber of edu­ca­tion­al insti­tu­tions; and the orga­ni­za­tion of the Air Force of the Chi­nese People’s Vol­un­teers to take part in the War to Resist US Aggres­sion and Aid Korea (1950–1953). The Air Force was merged with the Air Defense Force in 1957, by adopt­ing a sys­tem com­bin­ing air oper­a­tions with air defense. In the 1960s and 1970s the Air Force formed the guid­ing prin­ci­ple of giv­ing pri­or­i­ty to the devel­op­ment of air defense forces, and grad­u­al­ly grew into an air force for ter­ri­to­r­i­al air defense. Since the 1990s the Air Force has been in a phase of rapid devel­op­ment. It has deployed third-gen­er­a­tion com­bat air­craft, third-gen­er­a­tion ground-to-air mis­siles, and a series of rel­a­tive­ly advanced and com­put­er­ized weapons and equip­ment. It has stepped up the devel­op­ment of mil­i­tary the­o­ries with strate­gic the­o­ries at the core, and intro­duced a strate­gic con­cept that the Air Force should be capa­ble of both offen­sive and defen­sive oper­a­tions. As a result, the Air Force has begun its tran­si­tion from ter­ri­to­r­i­al air defense to both offen­sive and defen­sive oper­a­tions. After near­ly six decades of devel­op­ment, the Air Force has ini­tial­ly devel­oped into a strate­gic ser­vice com­pris­ing more than one wings. It now has rel­a­tive­ly strong capa­bil­i­ties to con­duct air defen­sive and offen­sive oper­a­tions, and cer­tain capa­bil­i­ties to exe­cute long-range pre­ci­sion strikes and strate­gic pro­jec­tion operations. 

Struc­ture and Orga­ni­za­tion
In peace­time, the Air Force prac­tices a lead­er­ship sys­tem which com­bines oper­a­tional com­mand with build­ing and admin­is­tra­tion, and which con­sists of the Air Force Head­quar­ters, air com­mands under mil­i­tary area com­mands, corps-lev­el (divi­sion-lev­el) com­mand posts, divi­sions (brigades) and reg­i­ments. The Air Force has under it an air com­mand in each of the sev­en mil­i­tary area com­mands of Shenyang, Bei­jing, Lanzhou, Jinan, Nan­jing, Guangzhou and Cheng­du. It has also under it an air­borne corps as well as var­i­ous insti­tu­tions of edu­ca­tion, research and exper­i­men­ta­tion. Under each air com­mand at the mil­i­tary area com­mand lev­el are avi­a­tion divi­sions, ground-to-air mis­sile divi­sions (brigades and reg­i­ments), anti­air­craft artillery brigades (reg­i­ments), radar brigades (reg­i­ments), ECM brigades (reg­i­ments and bat­tal­ions), and oth­er spe­cial­ized ser­vice units. In key areas there are also corps- or divi­sion-lev­el com­mand posts. The Air Force has also a num­ber of edu­ca­tion­al and train­ing insti­tu­tions, includ­ing the Air Force Com­mand Col­lege, Air Force Engi­neer­ing Uni­ver­si­ty, Air Force Avi­a­tion Uni­ver­si­ty, Air Force Radar Col­lege, Air Force Col­lege at Guilin, Air Force Col­lege at Xuzhou, Air Force School for Non­com­mis­sioned Offi­cers at Dalian and sev­en fly­ing colleges. 

An avi­a­tion divi­sion usu­al­ly con­sists of reg­i­ments, groups and squadrons, and has such types of air­craft as fight­ers, attack­ers, fight­er-bombers, bombers, trans­ports and com­bat sup­port air­craft. It has under it avi­a­tion reg­i­ments and relat­ed sta­tions. The avi­a­tion reg­i­ment is the basic tac­ti­cal unit. With bat­tal­ions as the basic fight­ing units, the ground-to-air mis­sile force is usu­al­ly orga­nized into divi­sions, reg­i­ments and bat­tal­ions or into brigades (reg­i­ments) and bat­tal­ions. With bat­ter­ies as basic fight­ing units, the anti­air­craft artillery force is usu­al­ly orga­nized into brigades (reg­i­ments), bat­tal­ions and com­pa­nies. The air­borne forces are orga­nized into corps, divi­sions, reg­i­ments, bat­tal­ions and companies. 

Force Build­ing
To meet the require­ments of infor­ma­tion­ized war­fare, the Air Force is work­ing to accel­er­ate its tran­si­tion from ter­ri­to­r­i­al air defense to both offen­sive and defen­sive oper­a­tions, and increase its capa­bil­i­ties for car­ry­ing out recon­nais­sance and ear­ly warn­ing, air strikes, air and mis­sile defense, and strate­gic pro­jec­tion, in an effort to build itself into a mod­ern­ized strate­gic air force. 

Tak­ing into full account prepa­ra­tions for com­bat and its own trans­for­ma­tion and devel­op­ment, the Air Force is explor­ing train­ing sys­tems and meth­ods tai­lored to the devel­op­ment of the lat­est gen­er­a­tion of weapon­ry and equip­ment. It stress­es tech­ni­cal and tac­ti­cal train­ing in com­plex envi­ron­ments, com­bined train­ing of dif­fer­ent arms and air­craft types, and joint train­ing; con­ducts mis­sion-ori­ent­ed and con­fronta­tion­al train­ing; and is increas­ing on-base, sim­u­lat­ed and web-based train­ing. It is work­ing to opti­mize the tri­par­tite pilot train­ing sys­tem com­posed of fly­ing col­leges, train­ing bases and com­bat units, and inten­si­fy­ing the train­ing of avi­a­tion units in counter-air oper­a­tions, air-to-ground attacks and joint oper­a­tions. It is deep­en­ing reforms and inno­va­tions in insti­tu­tion­al edu­ca­tion by improv­ing the sys­tem of dis­ci­pline, and mak­ing inno­va­tions in teach­ing pro­grams, means and meth­ods. It is strength­en­ing on-the-job train­ing, and explor­ing a new mod­el of per­son­nel devel­op­ment, name­ly the tri­ad of insti­tu­tion­al edu­ca­tion, train­ing in units and pro­fes­sion­al mil­i­tary edu­ca­tion. For this pur­pose, the Air Force Mil­i­tary Pro­fes­sion­al Uni­ver­si­ty was estab­lished in July 2008. 

To sat­is­fy the strate­gic require­ments of con­duct­ing both offen­sive and defen­sive oper­a­tions, the Air Force attach­es impor­tance to devel­op­ing new types of fight­ers, air and anti-mis­sile defense weapons, and com­mand automa­tion sys­tems. It has deployed some rel­a­tive­ly advanced com­put­er­ized equip­ment, and air-to-air and air-to-ground pre­ci­sion-guid­ed muni­tions, upgrad­ed the elec­tron­ic infor­ma­tion sys­tems of the equip­ment on active ser­vice, and improved the basic net­works for intel­li­gence and ear­ly warn­ing, com­mand and con­trol, and com­mu­ni­ca­tions. It has in the main estab­lished a major bat­tle weapon­ry and equip­ment sys­tem with third-gen­er­a­tion air­craft and ground-to-air mis­siles as the main­stay, and mod­i­fied sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion air­craft and ground-to-air mis­siles as the supplement. 

Cen­ter­ing on the improve­ment of the capa­bil­i­ties and qual­i­ty of its per­son­nel, the Air Force pur­sues a road of per­son­nel devel­op­ment which takes new- and high-tech tal­ents as the dri­ving force, makes break­throughs in crit­i­cal areas and aims at over­all improve­ment. It makes over­all plans for train­ing com­mand, staff, flight and tech­ni­cal sup­port per­son­nel. It has fos­tered a group of core per­son­nel with a good com­mand of infor­ma­tion tech­nol­o­gy and a con­tin­gent of new types of high-cal­iber per­son­nel as rep­re­sent­ed by inter-dis­ci­pli­nary com­mand­ing offi­cers, first-rate pilots, lead­ers in sci­en­tif­ic and tech­no­log­i­cal research, and tech­ni­cal experts. 

To raise its inte­grat­ed sup­port capa­bil­i­ties, the Air Force attach­es impor­tance to the devel­op­ment of logis­ti­cal and equip­ment sup­port sys­tems. It endeav­ors to improve the sup­port facil­i­ties of air­fields and posi­tions; strength­en its logis­ti­cal forces for rapid con­struc­tion of air defense projects, bomb elim­i­na­tion at and rapid repair of air­fields which have suf­fered attack, and avi­a­tion med­ical sup­port; devel­op and deploy the sec­ond gen­er­a­tion of spe­cial­ized logis­ti­cal equip­ment; cre­ate a stor­age and sup­ply net­work for spe­cial-pur­pose mate­ri­als; and build step by step bases capa­ble of sup­port­ing mul­ti­ple types of air­craft. The Air Force is also step­ping up efforts to deep­en the reform of the equip­ment sup­port mode; improve the lay­out of sup­port net­works for the sup­ply, main­te­nance and tech­ni­cal sup­port of ammu­ni­tion and mate­r­i­al; and make sup­port equip­ment small­er in size, more ver­sa­tile in func­tion and fit­ter for field operations. 

Source:
Infor­ma­tion Office of the State Coun­cil of the People’s Repub­lic of China 

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