PLA plays to its strengths in war games

China’s Ground Force ex­cels in events test­ing air de­fenses, driv­ing and main­te­nance in bat­tle­field con­di­tions. Cui Jia re­ports from Korla, Xin­jiang Uygur au­ton­o­mous re­gion.

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA -

Lu Donghua care­fully lifted the QW-2 an­ti­air­craft mis­sile launcher to his shoul­der, drew a breath, and then pulled the trig­ger. Within sec­onds, he was watch­ing his tar­get “blos­som like a flower” in the sky.

“Just imag­ine if that tar­get was an at­tack he­li­copter sent by the en­emy in a real bat­tle,” the 26-year-old pri­vate with the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army Ground Force said shortly af­ter jump­ing down from atop a 92A in­fantry fight­ing ve­hi­cle.

The tar­get was in fact a large cir­cu­lar board about 1.5 kilo­me­ters away in the Gobi Desert that had been raised 13 me­ters above the ground to sim­u­late a he­li­copter strike.

Four days ear­lier, on Aug 1, Lu had also shred­ded a mov­ing tar­get in an an­timis­sile ex­er­cise to be­gin his air-de­fense unit’s cam­paign at the In­ter­na­tional Army Games 2017 in Korla, a city in the Xin­jiang Uygur au­ton­o­mous re­gion.

The games, known as the Mil­i­tary Olympics, were ini­ti­ated by Rus­sia in 2014. This year, for the first time, China hosted four sec­tions: Su­vorov At­tack, Clear Sky, Safe En­vi­ron­ment and Gun­smith Mas­ter.

Mil­i­taries from 10 coun­tries com­peted un­der the blaz­ing desert sun from July 31 un­til Satur­day. Ac­cord­ing to the of­fi­cial re­sults re­leased over the week­end, teams from the PLA Ground Force won 11 con­tests over the four sec­tions.

Colonel Tan Ying­shuai, a spokesman for the PLA Ground Force, said he be­lieves any mil­i­tary that can claim vic­tory in the In­ter­na­tional Army Games is also likely to suc­ceed on a real bat­tle­field.

Like many sol­diers who took part, Lu put the suc­cess down to China’s un­prece­dented mil­i­tary re­form, which has fo­cused largely on im­prov­ing com­bat train­ing for the armed forces.

The Cen­tral Mil­i­tary Com­mis­sion un­veiled an over­all re­form plan in July 2015, which was quickly fol­lowed by a de­ci­sion to cut 300,000 troops as well as re­vamp the com­mand sys­tem. The com­mis­sion, headed by Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping, pledged to estab­lish a leaner and more ef­fi­cient chain of com­mand, re­duce the num­ber of non­com­bat­ant per­son­nel and de­part­ments, and build the PLA into a mighty force ca­pa­ble of win­ning a mod­ern war.

While the Ground Force may face the hard­est task in meet­ing the troop re­duc­tion tar­get, the re­form is a his­toric op­por­tu­nity, ac­cord­ing to Ma­jor Gen­eral Zhang Ming­cai, deputy chief of staff for the Ground Force.

“The re­form has forced us to be reborn and pushed for­ward the re­struc­tur­ing process,” said Zhang, who was on the judg­ing panel in Korla. “It has greatly helped op­ti­mize troop struc­ture and im­prove weaponry de­vel­op­ment. Plus, ac­tual com­bat train­ing has been sig­nif­i­cantly boosted.”

Lu said he has seen ob­vi­ous changes in train­ing since the re­form be­gan. “We now fo­cus on tak­ing down mov­ing tar­gets with live am­mu­ni­tion in­stead of prac­tic­ing on fixed tar­gets, as it’s a vi­tal skill in ac­tual com­bat,” the gun­ner said.

Se­nior Colonel Yang Yong, the Chi­nese team leader for the Clear Sky event, which tested a mil­i­tary’s air de­fenses, said the win­dow for de­stroy­ing an air­borne mis­sile — or “mak­ing it blos­som”, as gun­ners say — is be­tween four and six sec­onds.

“Tough, strict and re­al­is­tic com­bat train­ing is the key to win­ning bat­tles,” he said, adding that dur­ing air-de­fense events, teams had to move quickly af­ter fir­ing at each tar­get, which is nec­es­sary in a real com­bat sit­u­a­tion to avoid be­ing spot­ted by the en­emy.

No room for er­ror

The Su­vorov At­tack re­lay race, one of the most pop­u­lar events, re­quires crews to drive in­fantry fight­ing ve­hi­cles, or IFVs, through ob­sta­cle cour­ses fea­tur­ing mines, fires, wa­ter­filled ditches and an­ti­tank trenches, to test their ma­neu­ver­ing skills.

Team mem­bers also need to take part in three shoot­ing ses­sions, which in­volve quickly load­ing am­mu­ni­tion onto their ve­hi­cles. In this area, the Chi­nese mil­i­tary greatly im­pressed their for­eign com­peti­tors.

“Our rou­tine com­bat train­ing re­quires us to be ac­cu­rate and fast. We just did what we nor­mally do in train­ing,” said Pri­vate Wang Kun­long, 30, com­man­der of a Chi­ne­se­made 86A IFV crew.

The Rus­sian team used its do­mes­ti­cally built BMP-2 for the con­test, which is seen as su­pe­rior to China’s 86A. “But we made up for it with our driv­ing and shoot­ing skills,” said Wang, who has been train­ing with driver Lu Bo and gun­ner Bao Hongjun for two years. “We’re a team, so we can have tacit co­op­er­a­tion in any sit­u­a­tion,” he added.

De­spite the fact it weighs 13.6 met­ric tons, Lu Bo steered the crew’s 86A through the ob­sta­cle course like it was a fam­ily car cruis­ing on a city street. This, he said, is due to the fact he treats the ve­hi­cle like his baby.

An ob­ses­sive grease mon­key, the 29-year-old said he learned about the im­por­tance of keep­ing a ve­hi­cle in top con­di­tion the hard way in the 2015 In­ter­na­tional Army Games, when his IFV al­most hit a con­crete block af­ter the en­gine sud­denly stalled be­cause it had not been main­tained prop­erly.

“There’s no room for er­rors like that in ac­tual com­bat,” said Lu Bo, who was named best driver in the Su­vorov At­tack sec­tion this year.

Ma­jor Gen­eral Xu Youze, who headed the judg­ing panel for the Su­vorov At­tack sec­tion, added: “The Ground Force en­cour­ages sol­diers to be cre­ative and find the com­bat meth­ods that suit them best. If two IFVs meet in ac­tual com­bat, only the one that can launch an at­tack first will sur­vive. So be­ing the fastest is what we train for.”

Speed is also crit­i­cal in the Gun­smith Mas­ter sec­tion, which tests a mil­i­tary’s abil­ity in in­stalling and re­pair­ing var­i­ous weapons in bat­tle­field con­di­tions.

Main­te­nance is key to win­ning bat­tles, ac­cord­ing to Tian Fup­ing, deputy chief of staff for the Xin­jiang Mil­i­tary Re­gion. He added, “Our com­bat train­ing in re­cent years has not only re­quired our main­te­nance crews to be gun­smith masters, but also to be fight­ers first.”

And it wasn’t just the sol­diers who were put through their paces in Korla — China’s weaponry was also put to the test. Ex­cept for the BMP-2 IFV, all the hard­ware used in the com­pe­ti­tion was pro­vided by China.

“The com­pe­ti­tion saw the weaponry used in ex­treme con­di­tions. We will col­lect data on any prob­lems and pass it on to man­u­fac­tur­ers to fur­ther de­velop Chi­nese weaponry,” Ma­jor Gen­eral Zhang said.

Af­ter com­plet­ing their fi­nal Clear Sky mis­sion on Wed­nes­day, Lu Donghua and his team high­lighted an­other im­por­tant skill for sol­diers: en­durance. Once back at base, all three got out of their IFV and in­stantly be­gan to vomit.

“The tem­per­a­ture in the ve­hi­cle was over 50 C, so it was re­ally un­com­fort­able. We just had to deal with it be­cause there is no com­fort in com­bat,” Lu Donghua added.

The tem­per­a­ture in the ve­hi­cle was over 50 C, so it was re­ally un­com­fort­able. We just had to deal with it.”

a gun­ner with the PLA Ground Force

Con­tact the writer at cui­jia@chi­nadaily.com.cn

PHO­TOS BY ZOU HONG / CHINA DAILY

Sol­diers load am­mu­ni­tion onto a tank on Aug 4 dur­ing the In­ter­na­tional Army Games 2017 in Korla, Xin­jiang Uygur au­ton­o­mous re­gion.

Chi­nese sol­diers Above right:

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