What newly released Pentagon maps reveal about China’s growing military reach

China military

Summary List Placement

Last week, the Pentagon released its annual China Military Power Report, which detailed the ongoing transformation of China’s military, officially known as the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), into a modern force.

The report contains facts that will unnerve US policymakers and defense officials: China now has the world’s largest navy, is expanding its already massive and advanced missile arsenal, and has the capability to seize Taiwan’s outlying islands.

China has “marshaled the resources, technology, and political will over the past two decades to strengthen and modernize the PLA in nearly every respect,” the report states, adding that “China is already ahead of the United States in certain areas.”

This point is made clear in six maps showing the positioning of PLA forces and ranges of its missiles.

People’s Liberation Army ground forces

The first map shows the locations of the headquarters of the PLA Ground Forces (identified in the report as the PLA Army or PLAA), as well as the general positions of their group armies.

The map shows their placement within the PLA’s five theater commands: Northern, Central, Eastern, Southern, and Western. There are also two more military commands in China’s outlying provinces, Xinjiang and Tibet.

The report claims the PLAA is the world’s largest standing ground force, with 915,000 active-duty personnel in 13 group armies, one of which is roughly the size of a US Army Corps — 20,000 to 45,000 troops.

A group army is made up of 78 combined-arms brigades, each of which can have as many as 5,000 soldiers.

The brigades are organized into three categories: heavy (tanks and tracked armored vehicles), medium (wheeled armored vehicles), and light (infantry, air assault, mountain, and motorized).

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Interestingly, the map includes the PLA’s Airborne Corps, which is actually part of China’s air force. The Corps is made up of six airborne combined-arms brigades, at least one of which is mechanized with an air-droppable armored infantry fighting vehicle, the ZBD-03.

People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN)

The next map focuses on the China’s Navy, the PLAN.

It is the largest navy in the world with 350 vessels, and is “largely composed of modern multi-role platforms featuring advanced anti-ship, anti-air, and anti-submarine weapons and sensors.”

The vessels are part of three fleets based in the PLA’s Northern, Eastern, and Southern theaters.

The map shows the makeup of all fleets, with the Eastern and Southern Fleets having the most vessels. The PLAN also includes six marine corps brigades and a small but growing air force.

Though the PLAN shows clear signs of global ambitions, its main focus is to dominate the areas along the First Island Chain, stretching from Kyushu to the waters around Vietnam. A major flashpoint along this route is Taiwan, which Beijing sees as a breakaway province.

It is believed that in the event of war with Taiwan, the ships of the Eastern and Southern theaters will be directly involved around the island, while Northern Theater ships will protect sea approaches to China.

People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF)

According the report, the PLAAF, combined with the PLAN’s …read more

Source:: Business Insider


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