China's PLA opts to become US-style nimble force in massive overhaul

The People's Liberation Army (PLA), which together with Navy and Air Forces constitutes 2.3 million strong forces, is the world's largest.

PTI| Updated: Aug 24, 2016, 19:53 PM IST
China's PLA opts to become US-style nimble force in massive overhaul

Beijing: The Chinese Army is all set to discard erstwhile Soviet-style bulky military and opt for lean US-style forces for quick deployment with plans to retrench three lakh troops as part of reorganising the world's largest military.

The People's Liberation Army (PLA), which together with Navy and Air Forces constitutes 2.3 million strong forces, the world's largest, will phase out its Army corps as it tries to mould a more nimble fighting force, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.

The move will also impact the military deployment along the India-China borders, the PLA now plans to turn its 18 Army Corps into 25 to 30 divisions.

The size of a corp varies from 30,000 to a lakh of soldiers.

 

The current approach was inherited from the Soviet Union, but it's a bulky model no longer suited to the demands of modern warfare, which prizes modularity, a retired senior colonel based in Beijing said.

Instead, the style of the US 101st Airborne Division is the best example that the PLA land forces will study, he said.

"This is the main trend in modern warfare. Even the Russian Army has tried to learn from the US Army by reducing the size of their troops, making land forces become more nimble and quick-response," the veteran said.

"The style of the US 101st Airborne Division is the best example that the (People's Liberation Army's) land forces will study, especially its quick deployment, equipment and logistic supplies, as well as other supporting networks, which reflect the success of its nimble and efficient system," he said.

A Chinese defence white paper last year highlighted the importance of building small, multifunctional and modular units that could take on different purposes for joint operations.

As part of the overall military reforms initiated by President Xi Jinping, who also heads the decision-making Central Military Commission, the PLA has dissolved the four general headquarters and instead set up 15 new organisations including the Headquarters of the Joint Force.

The seven military commands were reshaped into five theatre commands.

Also, Xi has proposed to cut three lakh troops by next year.

It was only a matter of time for the army corps units to be either downsized or scrapped, although the change would inevitably encounter strong opposition from the ground force, the report said.