Assessing the Training and Operational Proficiency of China s Aerospace Forces

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C O R P O R A T I O N Assessing the Training and Operational Proficiency of China s Aerospace Forces Selections from the Inaugural Conference of the China Aerospace Studies Institute (CASI) Edmund J. Burke,
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C O R P O R A T I O N Assessing the Training and Operational Proficiency of China s Aerospace Forces Selections from the Inaugural Conference of the China Aerospace Studies Institute (CASI) Edmund J. Burke, Astrid Stuth Cevallos, Mark R. Cozad, Timothy R. Heath For more information on this publication, visit Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available for this publication. ISBN: Published by the RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, Calif. Copyright 2016 RAND Corporation R is a registered trademark. Limited Print and Electronic Distribution Rights This document and trademark(s) contained herein are protected by law. This representation of RAND intellectual property is provided for noncommercial use only. Unauthorized posting of this publication online is prohibited. Permission is given to duplicate this document for personal use only, as long as it is unaltered and complete. Permission is required from RAND to reproduce, or reuse in another form, any of its research documents for commercial use. For information on reprint and linking permissions, please visit The RAND Corporation is a research organization that develops solutions to public policy challenges to help make communities throughout the world safer and more secure, healthier and more prosperous. RAND is nonprofit, nonpartisan, and committed to the public interest. RAND s publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors. Support RAND Make a tax-deductible charitable contribution at Preface On June 22, 2015, the China Aerospace Studies Institute (CASI), in conjunction with Headquarters, Air Force, held a day-long conference in Arlington, Virginia, titled Assessing Chinese Aerospace Training and Operational Competence. The purpose of the conference was to share the results of nine months of research and analysis by RAND researchers and to expose their work to critical review by experts and operators knowledgeable about U.S. and Chinese air, space, and missile operations. The research drew heavily on openly published Chinese language sources, many of which have not been translated into English. CASI researchers presented eight papers at the conference and received valuable feedback from discussants and participants, both during the conference and afterward. Revised versions of three of the papers presented at the conference are collected in this volume: PRC Leadership Dynamics Shaping the Future of the PLA Air Force: Examining the Party s Military Reform Efforts, Edmund J. Burke and Astrid Stuth Cevallos Trends in PLA Air Force Joint Training: Assessing Progress in Integrated Joint Operations, Mark R. Cozad and Astrid Stuth Cevallos New Type Support: Developments in PLAAF Air Station Logistics and Maintenance, Timothy R. Heath. Three other papers presented at the conference have been published separately by RAND Project AIR FORCE: Overview of People s Liberation Army Air Force Elite Pilots, Michael S. Chase, Kenneth W. Allen, and Benjamin S. Purser III, RR-1416-AF, 2016 Training the People s Liberation Army Air Force Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) Forces, Bonny Lin and Cristina L. Garafola, RR-1414-AF, 2016 From Theory to Practice: People s Liberation Army Air Force Aviation Training at the Operational Unit, Lyle J. Morris and Eric Heginbotham, RR-1415-AF, Finally, two papers are being published by the Jamestown Foundation and are available at PLA Air Force Aviator Recruitment, Education, and Training, Kenneth W. Allen Building a Strong Informatized Strategic Missile Force: Overview of the Second Artillery Force with a Focus on Training in 2014, Kenneth W. Allen and Jana Allen. iii About the China Aerospace Studies Institute CASI was created in 2014 at the initiative of Headquarters, Air Force. CASI is part of the RAND Corporation s Project AIR FORCE (PAF); Air University and Headquarters Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) are key stakeholders. The purpose of CASI is to advance understanding of the capabilities, operating concepts, and limitations of China's aerospace forces. Its research focuses on the People s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force (PLAAF), Naval Aviation, Second Artillery, and the Chinese military s use of space. CASI aims to fill a niche in the China research community by providing high-quality, unclassified research on Chinese aerospace developments in the context of U.S. strategic imperatives in the Asia-Pacific region. CASI will transition to an independent, Air Force supported organization in fiscal year 2017, with personnel at Fort Lesley J. McNair in Washington, D.C., and at Air University, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. More than two decades ago, the armed forces of the People s Republic of China embarked on a series of efforts to transform themselves from a massive, low-tech force focused on territorial defense to a leaner, high-tech force capable of projecting power and influence around the peripheries of the nation, even against the expeditionary forces of the most capable adversary. By developing operational strategies tailored to meeting this objective; reforming the organization, training, and doctrine of the armed forces; and, perhaps most importantly, making large and sustained investments in new classes of weapon systems, China may be on the cusp of realizing the ambitious goals it has laid out for its armed forces. Without doubt, China s air and maritime forces today field capabilities that are compelling U.S. military planners to rethink their approach to power projection and to reorient important components of their modernization programs. China, in short, has become the pacing threat for the United States Air Force and Navy. Therefore, the importance of understanding the capabilities and limitations of China s air, naval, and space forces is self-evident. CASI s mission is to contribute to that understanding. CASI s research team brings to this work a mastery of research methods, understanding of China s military capabilities and doctrine, and the ability to read and understand Chinese writings. When undertaking research for CASI reports, analysts used a variety of Chineselanguage primary source documents on PLA and PLAAF training, operations, and doctrine. This includes Kongjun Bao (Air Force News) and Huojianbing Bao (Rocket Force News) the daily newspapers of the PLAAF and PLA strategic missile forces as well as defense white papers, PLA encyclopedias, and books written by military officers and academics affiliated with the PLA, such as the Academy of Military Science. These publications are considered authoritative assessments and reporting on training, strategy, and concepts for how the PLAAF and missile forces prepare for military operations and warfare in general. It is important to acknowledge, however, that these PLA publications also have some weaknesses and that reliance on open sources necessarily has some limitations. The growing availability of primary source material helps to compensate for at least some of these challenges. iv Additional information about CASI is available on RAND s CASI website: www/rand.org/paf/casi RAND Project AIR FORCE RAND Project AIR FORCE (PAF), a division of the RAND Corporation, is the U.S. Air Force s federally funded research and development center for studies and analyses. PAF provides the Air Force with independent analyses of policy alternatives affecting the development, employment, combat readiness, and support of current and future air, space, and cyber forces. Research is conducted in four programs: Force Modernization and Employment; Manpower, Personnel, and Training; Resource Management; and Strategy and Doctrine. The research reported here was prepared under contract FA C Additional information about PAF is available on our website: v Contents Preface... iii Chapter One... 1 Summary... 2 Introduction... 3 An Unusual Pledge of Allegiance and a Conference Affirming the Primacy of Party over Army... 4 The Anti-Corruption Campaign: Xi Jinping Dictates the Agenda... 8 Xu Qiliang and Ma Xiaotian s Paths to Leadership Xu Qiliang: A Transformative Figure? Ma Xiaotian: Following in Xu s Footsteps? Xu and Ma s Potential Legacy on the PLAAF: An Expanded Set of Strategic Missions Xu s Legacy: Unprecedented Responsibility and Ventures into the Space Domain Ma s Legacy: Maritime Security Moves to the Fore, While Strategic Goals Endure Conclusion: Will New Leadership Equal Strategic Success for the PLAAF? References Chapter Two Summary Defining Joint Operations: Lessons Learned and Key Concepts Introduction: Learning About Joint Operations from Others Developing New Operational Concepts Based on U.S. Experience Defining Integrated Joint Operations: The Role of Informatization and System-of-Systems Operations Testing Concepts: Major Joint Exercises and Training Events Early Experimentation on Integrated Joint Operations, Cross-MR Mobility and the Mission Action-Series Exercises Target-Centric Warfare and Nighttime Joint Operations Exercises in the Jinan Military Region Conclusion References Chapter Three Summary Introduction Background: The PLAAF s Transformation into a Strategic Air Force The PLAAF Embraces New Type Support Air Base System Construction Comprehensive Support Bases vi Multi Aircraft-Type Support Bases Reserve Air Stations Basic Task Bases Information Networks for Support Functions Support Command Network Petroleum, Oil, and Lubricant Network Ammunition Information Network Maintenance Network Parts and Aviation Supplies Network Maintenance Procedure Reforms Customized Maintenance Plans Flexible Schedules Maintenance Team Reorganization Quality Control Beyond the Air Base: Mobile Logistics Support Teams Rapid Deployment Long-Distance Deployments Joint Logistics Information Technology Case Study: Chengdu Military Region Air Force Dual-Runway Exercise, An Incomplete Transformation Poor Integration of Information Technology Inefficient Deployment Capability Lack of Professional Culture Insufficient Numbers of Trained Personnel Insufficient Fuel and Supplies Persistence of Corruption Conclusion: Reforms Remain in an Early Stage References vii Chapter One PRC Leadership Dynamics Shaping the Future of the PLA Air Force Examining the Party s Military Reform Efforts Edmund J. Burke and Astrid Stuth Cevallos 1 Summary This report examines the impact that Xi Jinping s priorities and the composition of the Central Military Commission (CMC) might have on People s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force (PLAAF) influence, bureaucratic leverage, and force development goals in the near and long term. Xi has consolidated his control of state, party, and military bodies while overseeing an anticorruption campaign that is far more extensive than many would have thought possible when he took power in On the operational side, new mission areas in the maritime domain, in particular are driving demands for higher readiness rates, while more-realistic training, under what press reports term actual combat or wartime conditions, is challenging PLAAF commander Ma Xiaotian and his PLAAF leadership team to move more quickly on a host of initiatives, most importantly a new training regimen to prepare the PLAAF for China s version of joint operations with its PLA Navy (PLAN), PLA Army (PLAA), PLA Rocket Forces (PLARF), and Strategic Support Forces counterparts. The appointment of former PLAAF commander Xu Qiliang to a vice chairman post on the CMC could signal that the PLAAF s bureaucratic heft is increasing and that PLAAF issues and funding will receive a higher priority in coming years. In the near term, the anticorruption campaign is high on Xu s agenda, as he is in charge of the CMC inspection work leading group and therefore is the senior officer in charge of Xi s blanket inspection of the officers corps. But the cultural problems signaled by the widespread anticorruption campaign are longstanding and have proven resistant to change since the mid-1990s. The difficulties Xu will face during his tenure were magnified in early 2016, when sweeping military reforms were announced; success in implementing these reforms by 2020 will in part shape Xu s legacy in the short run. In the longer term, Xu and his successor, Ma, are responsible for laying a foundation to meet ambitious force development goals out to 2030 and beyond, by which time the PLAAF hopes to be a powerful force for integrated air and space operations, capable of attack and defense. 2 Introduction Since ascending to the top spots in China s government, party, and military in 2012, Xi Jinping general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), president of the People s Republic of China (PRC), and chairman of the CMC, China s highest military deliberative and decisionmaking body has presided over the largest anticorruption campaign since the days of Chairman Mao Zedong. 1 At the same time, he has called meetings where he elicited expressions of fealty from military commanders and reiterated Mao s edict that the Party commands the gun. Finally, the past few years have witnessed the unprecedented promotion of a PLAAF commander to vice chairman of the CMC, resulting in the presence of not one, but two PLAAF generals on the CMC (the other being PLAAF commander Ma Xiaotian). What do all of these moves among military leadership mean for the future of the PLAAF? In considering that question, this report begins with an examination of two stage-setting and unusual political events: an April 2014 meeting where senior PLA leaders pledged their allegiance to Xi and a November 2014 reprisal of the historic 1929 Gutian Conference, where Xi reinforced the CCP s control over the PLA. Against the backdrop of Xi s anticorruption campaign, these events paint a picture of Xi s efforts not just to enhance the CCP s political legitimacy but also to consolidate his control over the military. The report then explores the paths to leadership of former PLAAF commander and current Vice Chairman of the CMC Xu Qiliang and current PLAAF commander and CMC member Ma Xiaotian before turning to a consideration of their potential legacies, especially with regard to achieving the PLAAF s (and PLA s) strategic goals and Xi s much-touted China Dream. It concludes with an analysis of the possible long-term implications of Xu and Ma s leadership for the future of the PLAAF. This report finds that the PLAAF has gained a measure of status and influence due to structural changes in the PLA and that Xu and Ma are the trailblazers for a new dynamic in PLAAF leadership. 2 Their presence on the CMC should help PLAAF make gains in the bureaucratic competition for resources, if only because the structural changes were designed to give services other than the PLAA a more prominent place in military leadership. The PLAAF may also achieve an expanded mission set as the PLA evolves into a more modern joint force. In addition, Xu s promotion to vice chairman of the CMC may not be a one-off occurrence, but might instead be a byproduct of these same structural changes that now have PLAAF officers attaining not just the rank but also the grade necessary to reach the highest levels of leadership in 1 Shai Oster, President Xi s Anti-Corruption Campaign Biggest Since Mao, Bloomberg Business, March 4, Though it has existed since 1949, the PLAAF was marginalized within the PLA following the Cultural Revolution and Lin Biao s death in the early 1970s. In the 1980s, the PLAAF began a process of comprehensive reform, but it remained marginalized through the mid-1990s, when the PLA began to modernize in earnest. For more on the early history of the PLAAF, see Kenneth W. Allen, Glenn Krumel, and Jonathan D. Pollack, China s Air Force Enters the 21st Century, Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND Corporation, MR-580-AF, the PLA. 3 The Chinese military leadership and personnel system has never before been structured to allow PLAAF (or PLAN) leaders to attain the grade, rank, and position that would give them an opportunity to fill the top three positions in the PLA. An Unusual Pledge of Allegiance and a Conference Affirming the Primacy of Party over Army In early April 2014, PLAAF commander Ma Xiaotian took part in an extraordinary meeting: He and 17 other senior PLA leaders all but swore their personal allegiance to Xi Jinping. 4 In comments attributed to him under the heading Strive to Enhance the Air Force s Ability to Fight and Win, Ma praised Xi for providing the ideological and theoretic guide for the whole Party, the whole military, the entire people throughout the country to make concerted efforts for the fulfillment of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation at an earlier date. 5 His peers fellow service heads, commanders of each of China s seven military regions, and senior officers from each of the PLA s four general departments each also spoke and submitted articles, all of which were printed collectively on two full pages in the PLA s daily newspaper on April 3, Each extolled Xi and his proper leadership and guidance, and then individually listed the pressing imperatives in terms of force development or organizational obligations for their respective services and entities. The English-language version of China s official newspaper covered the story under the title PLA Senior Generals Back Xi s Orders. 7 Regional press outlets highlighted how unusual this show of fealty was but varied as to just exactly what it meant. The South China Morning Post declared it a sign of Xi s strength among the military, 3 On the distinction between grades and ranks, Kenneth Allen writes, In the PLA... grades are based on an officer s position and are more important than ranks. As a result, PLA writings usually refer to officer positions or grades and have few references to ranks. Within the PLA, an officer s grade, not rank, reflects authority and responsibility across service, branch, and organizational lines. While rank is a key indicator of position within the hierarchy of foreign militaries, grade is the key indicator of authority within the PLA. See Kenneth Allen, Assessing the PLA s Promotion Ladder to CMC Member Based on Grades vs. Ranks Part 1, China Brief, Vol. 10, No. 15, July 22, 2010a. 4 PLA Senior Generals Back Xi s Orders, China Daily, April 3, Ma Xiaotian [ 马晓天 ], Strive to Enhance the Air Force s Ability to Fight and Win [ 努力提高空军部队能打仗打胜仗能力 ], Liberation Army Daily [ 解放军报 ], April 2, Between late 2014 and early 2015, the PLA announced a major organizational reform to the structure of the Chinese armed forces, which included revamping the CMC, dissolving the four general departments (GDs), creating a new service headquarters, and establishing five new theater commands to replace the seven military regions. This chapter was written before the organizational reform was announced and therefore refers to the original GD structure. For more on the reform, see Kenneth Allen, Dennis J. Blasko, and John F. Corbett, The PLA s New Organizational Structure: What is Known, Unknown and Speculation (Part 1), China Brief, Vol. 16, No. 3, February 4, 2016; In Depth Study and Implementation of Chairman Xi Jinping s Important Expositions on National Defense and Army Building, Pushing Forward the Great Practice of Building and Strengthening the Military From a New Starting Point [ 深入学习贯彻习主席关于国防和军队建设重要论述, 在新的起点上推进强军兴军伟大实践 ], Liberation Army Daily [ 解放军报 ], April 2, PLA Senior Generals Back Xi s Orders, while The Straits Times in Singapore cautioned that Xi might not be facing any ordinary opposition but possibly a challenge to his political legitimacy. 8 In retrospect, the South China Morning Post had it right. The April 2014 meeting was a watershed public moment that signaled Xi s consolidation of absolute power atop the PLA and the CCP after a tumultuous two years of infighting that saw the ousting of many high-ranking officials loyal to previous CCP leaders Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin. The meeting was held just days after Gu Junshan, a former deputy director of the General Logis
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