The People’s Liberation Army Special Operations Forces, or the SOF, is a branch of the PLA Ground Force. It specializes in rapid-response combat in a limited regional war under high-tech conditions, with commando operations, counter-terrorism, and intelligence gathering. But reforms are calling for a smarter military structure.
CGTN’s Han Bin reports.
DEFENSE OF OFFENSEThe People's Liberation Army Special Operations Forces, or the SOF, is a branch of the PLA Ground Force. It specializes in rapid-response combat in a limited regional war under high-tech conditions, with commando operations, counter-terrorism, and intelligence gathering.
With exclusive access to one unit in the Northern Theater Command, Han Bin took a first-hand look at the army’s transformation.
The soldiers of the PLA’s Special Operations Forces focus on what’s needed in modern warfare.
“Twelve years of tough, intensive training have given me courage and perseverance. That’s the biggest transformation for me. The original selection pool for the Special Operation Forces was over 100 soldiers, but only 30 qualified after training. I was one of them,” said Zhaxi Muga, Lieutenant of the PLA 2th Group Army.
Zhaxi Muga’s unit was expanded from the infantry to brigade scale at the end of 2013, as part of the reforms to build a ground troop capable in modern warfare.
“There’s been many changes over the past years, to transform the unit into a more capable one in actual combat. Before, we never had midnight training in driving, sailing, diving, and parachuting with weapons,” Muga said.
Sniper training is crucial. Zhaxi wants to share his experience with young soldiers, saying the key is not the physical toughness under harsh conditions, it’s acquiring the proper mind-set for modern warfare.
“The training is all based on actual combat situations. We want the training to have the same effect on soldiers as on an actual battleground. This is to minimize the distance between training and live combat for SOF units that have not undergone a real test of war. We place great importance on joint-operation training as well. We have conducted many such joint-exercises in the past years, with the Air and Naval forces,” said Jin Song, a Major in the PLA 26th Group Army.
The Chinese military has embarked on a sweeping re-organization, aimed at transforming it in to a leaner, more modern army. That means fewer soldiers, but the Special Operations Forces are being strengthened to fulfill their new missions.
Soldiers like Zhaxi Muga are undergoing more intensive training than ever before. They say they are willing to sacrifice themselves in defense of their homeland, if China finds itself at war.
The building up of China’s special forces represents a shift in the operational thinking, from an army-dominated force structure, to integrated joint operations, with a highly flexible elite force.
Christopher Yung discusses China’s military modernization.
For more on China’s military change, CGTN’s Susan Roberts spoke with Christopher Yung, the Donald Bren Chair of Non-Western Strategic Thought, at the U.S Marine Corps University.