China to overhaul land troops in bid to transform world’s biggest army into nimble fighting force: sources

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The army comprises 1.55 million soldiers, of which 850,000 are mobile troops, most of whom are under the army corps, while the rest are regional garrison troops. Pictured, the parade marking the 70th anniversary of the end of the second world war in Beijing. Photo: Simon Song

 

China will reorganise more than half of its 1.55 million land force troops, phasing out its army corps as it tries to mould a more nimble fighting force, sources familiar with the military said, adding that strong internal resistance to the change was expected.

Some of the existing 18 Army Corps will be turned into 25 to 30 divisions, they told the South China Morning Post. The size of a corp varies from 30,000 to 100,000 soldiers.

The 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, according to a retired senior colonel based in Beijing.

“This is a 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.”

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

The overhaul comes amid a broader shift that the PLA embarked on early this year.

Under the direction of President Xi Jinping, who also heads the decision-making Central Military Commission, the four general headquarters were dissolved, before setting up 15 new organisations including the Headquarters of the Joint Force. The seven military commands were reshaped into five theatre commands. Some 300,000 troops will also be cut by 2017.

Under the new arrangement, divisions will receive instructions from the relevant theatre command, which reports directly to the Joint Staff Headquarters, which is now part of the Central Military Commission, before giving orders to frontline troops.

Currently the biggest land force in the world, the army comprises 1.55 million soldiers, of which 850,000 are mobile troops, most of whom are under the army corps, while the rest are regional garrison troops.

Full article: China to overhaul land troops in bid to transform world’s biggest army into nimble fighting force: sources (South China Morning Post)

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