Hindustan Times ST (Jaipur)

PLA inducts army units in Western Theatre Command

- Sutirtho Patranobis letters@hindustant­imes.com

BEIJING: The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has, for the first time, inducted the army’s air defence units in its air force command chain in a region which borders India to form a combined air defence system.

The setting up of the new, joint system is part of the Chinese WTC’S (Western Theatre Command) focus on war preparatio­n and exploring the establishm­ent of a joint air defence system, the PLA’S mouthpiece, PLA Daily reported on Tuesday.

The Western Theatre Command is responsibl­e for the border with India, and continues large-scale deployment in the region – despite partial disengagem­ent -- amid the year-long border friction in eastern Ladakh.

The mouthpiece called the new formation “a solid step… taken in the joint combat and joint training.”

The new system was tried out at a drill in the western theatre, the report said without sharing details about the location.

The high-level exercise was a drill for checking the combat readiness of the army’s air defence forces but the orders, during the drill, were given by the PLA’S air force command stationed in the area -- a likely first for PLA.

According to a senior officer of the WTC’S Air Force Staff Headquarte­rs, more than 10 army air defence force units have entered the PLA Air Force (PLAAF) command chain in the

WTC to share early warning informatio­n, to test combat readiness, to participat­e in major exercises and, overall, to form a “preliminar­y alliance”.

“The integratio­n of air defence across services and arms is a solid step to deepen joint operations,” the PLA Daily article said.

The WTC’S air force took the initiative to implement joint operations and organised troops from ground defence, radar and communicat­ions to “…work together with army commanders to tackle key problems, unify informatio­n interfaces, and formulate relevant standards and specificat­ions.”

The formation of the joint command is in line with a military training order issued by President Xi Jinping, also the head of the Central Military Commission (CMC), in January.

The order said that military training in 2021 will focus on actual combat training to raise combat readiness, joint command and joint specialise­d training, new equipment and force training, and operationa­l system of systems integratio­n training.

Xi had then said that PLA must be ready to “act at any second” as the armed forces had kicked off the year’s military training and drills in January”.

“[PLA must] increase the integratio­n of new equipment, new forces and new combat realms into training and combat systems,” Xi was quoted in reports as saying. Last week, state media reported that PLA deployed advanced rocket launchers with an artillery brigade stationed above 17,000 feet in the WTC.

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