Each of the PLA’s seven MR has a “Special Operations Group”, which is the size of Army regiment with about 1,000~2,000 men organised into three battalions. Each battalion has its own headquarters and support unit. Their operations are usually in company strength (70~100) or smaller teams. Each of the SOF unit has a unique codename. For examples, the SOF unit of the Guangzhou MR is known as “Sharp Sword of Southern China”, and that of the Nanjing MR “The Flying Dragons”.
Officially, the PLA does not have a unified command like the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) for special operations, but the Intelligence Department (2nd Department) of the PLA General Staff Department may serve as a general director for SOF and special forces warfare doctrines development. The SOF units are also believed to be closely associated with the intelligence department of the seven MRHQs.
One important move since 2003 in the PLA SOF development is that the command of the SOF units has been transferred from MRHQs to the headquarters of some group armies (GA). For example, the SOF unit of the Beijing MR is now directly organic to the headquarters of the 38th Group Army. The SOF unit of Chengdu MR is now directly organic to the 13th Group Army.
Table: PLA Special Operations Forces Units
|Military Region||Organic to Group Army||Codename||Note|
|Beijing MR||38th GA||Divine Sword||Established in the early 1990s|
|Shenyang MR||39th GA||Tigers of Northeast|
|Lanzhou MR||Tigers of the Night|
|Jinan MR||54th GA||Eagle|
|Nanjing MR||Flying Dragons||Established in late 1992.|
|Guangzhou MR||42nd GA||Sharp Sword of Southern China||Established in 1988 as the PLA’s first dedicated SOF unit, and was later expanded in 2000 to become the first PLA SOF unit capable of air‑, sea‑, and land-operations|
|Chengdu MR||13th GA||Falcons of Southwest||Established in 1992. Experimental unit for digitised army and airborne mechanical troops technologies|