The People's Liberation Army Ground Force (PLAGF) (simplified Chinese: 中国人民解放军陆军; traditional Chinese: 中國人民解放軍陸軍; pinyin: Zhōngguó Rénmín Jiěfàngjūn Lùjūn) is the land-based service branch of the People's Liberation Army and it is the largest and oldest branch of the entire Chinese armed forces. The PLAGF can trace its lineage from 1927; however, it was not officially established until 1948.
|People's Liberation Army Ground Force|
Emblem of People's Liberation Army Ground Force
|Allegiance||Communist Party of China|
|Size||975,000 active (est.) as of 2018|
|Part of||People's Liberation Army|
|March||Military Anthem of the People's Liberation Army|
|Engagements||World War II (1937-45)|
Chinese Civil War (1927, 1946)
Korean War (1950-53)
Sino-Indian War (1962)
Sino-Indian War (1967)
Sino-Soviet border conflict (1969)
Vietnam War (1962-75)
Sino-Vietnamese War (1979)
Sino-Vietnamese conflicts 1979-90 (1979-90)
Northern Mali conflict (2012- )
South Sudanese Civil War (2013- )
|Commander||General Han Weiguo|
|Political Commissar||General Liu Lei|
|Attack helicopter||CAIC Z-10, Changhe Z-11, Harbin Z-19,|
|Cargo helicopter||Aérospatiale SA 321 Super Frelon, Changhe Z-18, Harbin Z-9|
|Observation helicopter||Changhe Z-11, Harbin Z-19|
|Trainer helicopter||Eurocopter AS350 Écureuil, Eurocopter EC120 Colibri|
|Transport||Shaanxi Y-8, Shaanxi Y-9, Xian Y-7|
In February 1949 the existing large number of armies and divisions were regularised into up to seventy armies of three divisions each. While some, such as the 1st Army, survived for over fifty years, a number were quickly amalgamated and disestablished in the early 1950s. It appears that twenty per cent or even more of the seventy new armies were disestablished up to 1953; in 1952 alone, the 3rd, 4th, 10th, 17th, 18th, and 19th Armies were disbanded.
The PLA ground forces consist of conventionally armed main and regional units, which in 1987 made up over 70 percent of the PLA. It provided a good conventional defense, but in 1987 had only limited offensive potential and was poorly equipped for nuclear, biological, or chemical warfare. Main forces included about 35 group armies, comprising 118 infantry divisions, 13 armored divisions, and 33 artillery and antiaircraft artillery divisions, plus 71 independent regiments and 21 independent battalions of mostly support troops. Regional forces consisted of 73 divisions of border defense and garrison troops plus 140 independent regiments.
Under the old system, a field army consisted of three partially motorized infantry divisions and two regiments of artillery and anti-aircraft artillery. Each field army division had over 12,000 personnel in three infantry regiments, one artillery regiment, one armored regiment, and one anti-aircraft artillery battalion. Organization was flexible, the higher echelons being free to tailor forces for combat around any number of infantry divisions. At least theoretically, each division had its own armor and artillery — actual equipment levels were not revealed and probably varied — and the assets at army level and within the independent units could be apportioned as needed.
In 1987 the new, main-force group armies typically included 46,300 soldiers in up to four divisions, believed to include infantry, armor, artillery, air defense, airborne, and air support elements. Although the new group armies were supposed to reflect a move to combined-arms operations, because of a lack of mechanization they continued to consist of infantry supported by armor, artillery, and other units. The 13 armored divisions each had 3 regiments and 240 main battle tanks (MBT) but lacked adequate mechanized infantry support. There was little evidence of the use of armored personnel carriers during the Sino-Vietnamese border conflict in 1979, and tanks were used as mobile artillery and as support for dismounted infantry. Artillery forces emphasized towed guns, howitzers, and truck-mounted multiple rocket launchers. In the 1980s some self-propelled artillery entered service, but the PLA also produced rocket launchers as a cheaper but not totally effective alternative to self-propelled guns. There was a variety of construction equipment, mobile bridging, trucks, and prime movers. A new multiple rocket launcher for scattering antitank mines appeared in 1979, but mine-laying and mine-clearing equipment remained scarce.
Regional forces consisted of full-time PLA troops organized as independent divisions for garrison missions. Garrison divisions were static, artillery-heavy units deployed along the coastline and borders in areas of likely attack. Regional forces were armed less heavily than their main-force counterparts, and they were involved in training the militia. They were the PLA units commonly used to restore order during the Cultural Revolution. When chairman Mao proclaimed the People's Republic of China on October 1, 1949, PLA ground force was 4.9 million-strong peasant army. After some time, demobilization of ill-trained and politically unreliable troops began, resulting in the reduction of army strength.
While the size of the PLA Ground Force has been reduced over the past few decades, technology-intensive elements such as special operations forces (SOF), army aviation (helicopters), surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), and electronic warfare units have all been rapidly expanded. The latest operational doctrine of the PLA ground forces highlights the importance of information technology, electronic and information warfare, and long-range precision strikes in future warfare. The older generation telephone/radio-based command, control, and communications (C3) systems are being replaced by an integrated battlefield information networks featuring local/wide-area networks (LAN/WAN), satellite communications, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)-based surveillance and reconnaissance systems, and mobile command and control centers.
There are 13 corps sized Army groups of China since the end of April 2017, divided among five Theater commands — Eastern, Southern, Northern, Western, Central. Within the Theater Commands, starting 2011, the divisions are being downsized into full brigades (Chinese: 旅; pinyin: Lǚ) - armored, mechanized infantry, field artillery, air defense artillery, engineering and logistics brigades.
The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) currently attributes the PLA Ground Force with nine active tank divisions consisting of a number of armored brigades. Dennis Blasko wrote in 2000 that the traditional structure of PLA divisions (armored and mechanized) consisted roughly of three regiments – tuan (Chinese: 团; pinyin: Tuán) – of the main arm, each of three battalions (Chinese: 营; pinyin: yíng) plus support units, a fourth regiment of infantry (in an armored division) or armor (in an infantry division), a field artillery regiment, an anti-aircraft regiment or battalion, and signals, engineer, reconnaissance, and chemical defense battalions or companies, plus combat service support units.
A typical PLAGF armored brigade has the brigade HQ, 4 tank battalions (124 main battle tanks) – each tank battalion has 3 tank companies (30 + 1 tank for the battalion commander), 1 mechanized infantry battalion (40 armored personnel carriers), 1 field artillery battalion (18 self-propelled howitzers) – 3 batteries of 6 guns each and 1 air defense artillery battalion plus a support battalion. In a mechanized/motorized infantry brigade, the organization is 4 mechanized/motorized infantry battalions, 1 tank battalion and the rest as in the armored brigades but with either self-propelled or towed guns in the field artillery battalion.
There are 8 active artillery divisions consisting of a number of artillery brigades. A typical PLAGF artillery brigade has 4 artillery battalions each with 18 guns in 3 batteries and 1 self-propelled anti-tank gun battalion (18 vehicles).
Brigades are a relatively new formation for the PLAGF. Introduced in the 1990s, the PLAGF plans to expand their number and rid itself of the massive, rigid formations of the Soviet model. As a step towards modernizing its army, this new system allows for smaller, cross-service arm battle groups of battalion size within a brigade to operate independently, increasing the PLA's ability to respond to a rapidly changing battle situation. The PLAGF has yet to fully take advantage of this new formation, but has been taking steps to successfully integrate it in its force structure.
In the 1980s, regional forces consisted of full-time PLA troops organized as independent divisions for garrison missions. An example of such a formation was the 1st Garrison Division of Lanzhou Military Region. Garrison divisions were static, artillery-heavy units deployed along the coastline and borders in areas of likely attack. Regional forces were armed less heavily than their main-force counterparts, and they were involved in training the militia. They were the PLA units commonly used to restore order during the Cultural Revolution.
The PLA first became interested in modern special warfare in the mid-1980s when it was shifting from the "people's war" to "fighting a local war under hi-tech conditions." The PLA planners believed that the next war would be a short, fast-pace conflict on the periphery rather than a total war on Chinese territories, and conventional infantry-orientated ground forces in their mass numbers could no longer meet the requirements. It specialises in rapid reaction combat in a limited regional war under high-tech conditions, commando operations, counter-terrorism, and intelligence gathering. The size of the Special Operations Forces is estimated at 7,000 ~ 14,000 troops.
In 1987 the PLA ground forces, which relied upon obsolescent but serviceable equipment, were most anxious to improve defenses against armored vehicles and aircraft. Most equipment was produced from Soviet designs of the 1950s, but weapons were being incrementally upgraded, some with Western technology. One example of upgraded, Soviet-design equipment was the Type 69 MBT, an improved version of the Type 59 MBT, itself based on the Soviet T-54 . The Type 69 had improved armor, a gun stabilizer, a fire control system including a laser rangefinder, infrared searchlights, and a 105 mm smooth-bore gun. In 1987 the existence of a new, Type 80 MBT was revealed in the Western press. The tank had a new chassis, a 105 mm gun, and a fire control system. The PLA was believed to have atomic demolition munitions, and there were unconfirmed reports that it also had tactical nuclear weapons. In any case, nuclear bombs and missiles in the Chinese inventory could be used in a theater role. The PLA had a scarcity of antitank guided missiles, tactical surface-to-air missiles, and electronics to improve communications, fire control, and sensors. China began production of the Soviet Sagger antitank missile in 1979 but lacked a more powerful, longer range, semiautomatic antitank guided missile. The PLA required a mobile surface-to-air missile and an infantry shoulder-fired missile for use against helicopters and certain other aircraft.
The PLA Ground Forces continue to undergo significant modernisation and re-structuring to deal with potential threats and enhance their capabilities. Front line troops such as special forces, marines and paratroopers are given priority in receiving modern weapon systems and equipment. Other areas of improvement are its battlefield C4ISR capabilities, with the introduction of satellite communications, wireless networks, and digital radios, army commanders are now able to maintain constant communications with their front-line units while on the move. The bulk of the ground forces have been regularly asked to operate under severe electronic countermeasures conditions in exercises. Also a network-centric warfare capability connecting different combat, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance elements to form an integrated network is being developed.
Approximately 40% of the ground force divisions and brigades are either armoured or mechanized to deal with potential large scale conventional threats. Mechanized infantry are soldiers carried by Infantry Fighting Vehicles or Armored Personnel Carriers. A mechanized infantry squad consists of nine men; six armed with QBZ-95 assault rifles, one machine gunner and crewman, and one RPG gunner. Non-mechanized infantry are soldiers moved by truck. A non-mechanized squad consists of 12 men; the original nine men plus one extra machine gun crew and RPG. Troops wear green-patterned camouflage uniforms, combat helmets, and flak jackets (ballistic vests with ceramic plates are only issued in rare cases). The dismounted squad has two walkie-talkie radios, while the vehicle has a longer range radio and intercom system.
The standard sidearm of PLA ground forces is the QSZ-92, with soldiers and special forces having it chambered in 9×19mm, and commanders and officers in 5.8×21mm DAP92. The QCW-05 is a 5.8 mm submachine gun used by special forces and non-combat personnel such as vehicle crews and aircrews. Sharpshooting is provided by the QBU-88 marksman rifle. The QJY-88 is a general-purpose machine gun used in squads by a two-man crew.
At platoon and company levels, the heavier Type 67 machine gun is used. Also at those levels are the QLZ-87 35 mm automatic grenade launcher and the QLT-89 and QLT-89A 50 mm handheld grenade launcher. At company and battalion levels, weapons include the QJZ-89 12.7 mm heavy machine gun and the PF-98 anti-tank rocket launcher. The PP-87 82mm mortar is fielded at the battalion level.
The cost to equip a single Chinese soldier is about 9,400 yuan (US$1,523), far less than Western soldiers, due to the lesser amounts of issued kit. Roughly half is the cost of the QBZ-95 rifle alone (4,300 yuan), with the second costliest being the helmet at 1,580 yuan. Unlike Western soldiers who are given body armor, knee and elbow pads, goggles, and gas masks, most Chinese soldiers are not issued body armor higher than company levels. Only two radio sets are issued to each company for the commanding officer and political instructor, with only a few soldiers in each squad carrying compasses, and fewer still having night-vision equipment. The infantry equipment that is not issued otherwise, however, has been seen in standard kit when they are deployed into high risk areas, as observed for units participating in UN Peacekeeping and counter-piracy operations. Cui Xianwei has said that the PLA feels that providing protective gear to soldiers would sap their fighting spirit.
As of 2017, the PLAGF fielded the largest active force of main battle tanks in the world, comprising roughly 3,390 third-generation, 400-500 second-generation, and 2,850 first-generation tanks. First-generation tanks are ZTZ-59-I/II/D license-built variants of the T-54, remaining in service with a significant proportion of the PLA despite even the latest version (upgraded in the 1980s) being obsolete. Second-generation tanks consist of the ZTZ-79 (though sometimes considered first-gen) and ZTZ-88/B; both had limited production runs in the 1980s and 1990s respectively and are now only in the inventory of units in northern and western China, with ZTZ-79s largely being exported. The bulk of China's third-generation tank force is made up of some 2,500 ZTZ-96/A/B tanks, as well as more than 600 ZTZ-99/A tanks, though due to high cost they were produced in relatively small numbers and issued to strategic-reserve units near Beijing. China also has designed the new ZTQ-15 light tank for service in high-altitude regions.
|Main battle tanks||7,950|
|Infantry fighting vehicles||1,490|
|Armoured personnel carriers||3,298|
The People's Liberation Army Ground Force maintains close relationships with several paramilitary organizations within China, primarily the People's Armed Police (PAP) and the Militia (also known as the China Militia). Both of these paramilitary organisations act as a reserve force for the PLAGF during a time of national emergency such as war or natural disaster. The PAP consists of approximately 1.5 million personnel. Their primary mission during peacetime is internal security and counter-terrorism. The Militia is a mass force engaged in daily production under the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC), and forms part of the Chinese armed forces. Under the command of the military organs, it undertakes such jobs as war preparation services, security and defense operation tasks and assistance in maintaining social order and public security. The Militia numbers some 3 million service men and women.
The 1987 Sino-Indian skirmish was the third military conflict between the Chinese People's Liberation Army Ground Force and Indian Army that occurred at the Sumdorong Chu Valley, with the previous one taking place almost a quarter of a century earlier.1st Amphibious Mechanized Infantry Division
The 1st Amphibious Combined Arms Brigade, formerly the 1st Amphibious Mechanized Infantry Division, is a military formation of the People's Liberation Army Ground Force of the People's Republic of China.6th Mechanized Infantry Division
The 6th Army Division (Chinese: 陆军第6师) was activated in November 1966 from 2nd and 4th Infantry Regiments of Xinjiang Military Region, Ali Cavalry Detachment and Independent Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion of the Military Region.
The division was composed of:
16th Infantry Regiment;
17th Infantry Regiment;
18th Infantry Regiment;
311st Artillery Regiment (dropped designation number in June 1969).In 1985, the division was reorganized as the 6th Infantry Division (Chinese: 步兵第6师), as a northern infantry division, catalogue B.
In March 1990, the division was reconfigured as a motorized infantry division of high altitude. All infantry regiments were reorganized as motorized infantry regiments of high altitude.
In November 1993, 18th Motorized Infantry Regiment was reconfigured as mechanized infantry regiment.
In March 1995, the division was reconfigured as a northern infantry division, catalogue B.
In 2003 the division was reorganized as the 6th Mechanized Infantry Division (Chinese: 机械化步兵第6师). The 16th Motorized Infantry Regiment was reorganized as the Armored Regiment, 6th Mechanized Infantry Division.
Since then the division was composed of:
17th Mechanized Infantry Regiment;
18th Mechanized Infantry Regiment;
Anti-Aircraft Regiment.The division is now a maneuver formation of the Xinjiang Military District, as one of the few divisions left in the People's Liberation Army Ground Force after the 2017 PLA Military Reform.74th Group Army
The People's Liberation Army Ground Force 74th Group Army, formerly the 42nd Group Army, is a group army - a corps-sized military formation - of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, active since the late 1940s. It was part of the Guangzhou Military Region.77th Group Army
The 77th Group Army is a military formation of the People's Liberation Army Ground Force. It was established in 2017 by seemingly a redesignation of the former 13th Group Army.
The 13th Group Army (Military Unit Cover Designator (MUCD) 56005) was established in 1985 after the disbandment of the 50th Army. It incorporated the 149th Division, which had been part of the 50th Army.During the Sino-Vietnamese War, the Kunming Military Region took responsibility for Chinese operations during the Battle of Lào Cai, which involved the 11th and 13th Armies from the Kunming Military Region itself, and the 14th Army from the Chengdu Military Region, totalling about 125,000 troops. The three armies was followed by the reserve 149th Division of the 50th Army, as well as many support units. The invasion comprised three prongs of advances: while the 11th Army was assigned to attack Phong Thổ before hooking up to Sapa and Lào Cai from the west, the 14th Army was ordered to take Mường Khương and move against Lào Cai from the east; the central thrust was undertaken by the 13th Army, targeting Lào Cai itself, as well as the township of Cam Đường to the south.Blasko 2002, drawing upon the Directory of PRC Military Personalities, 1999 and 2000 editions, wrote that the 13 GA (MUCD 56005), at Chongqing, comprised the 37th Motorized Infantry Division (MUCD 56013), the 149th Motorized Infantry Division (MUCD 56016) at Emei, Sichuan, an Armoured Brigade (MUCD 56017) at Pengzhou, Sichuan, an Artillery Brigade (MUCD 56014) at Chongqing, and an Anti-Aircraft Artillery Brigade (MUCD 56018) at Mianyang, Sichuan.Since 2002, various sources have identified the armoured brigade as the 17th Armored Brigade and also added 2nd Helicopter Regiment and a Special Operations Group to the listing.80th Motorized Infantry Brigade (People's Republic of China)
The 80th Medium Combined Arms Brigade, formerly the 80th Division, is a military formation of the People's Liberation Army Ground Force. It's now a maneuver part of the PLA 82nd Group Army.Army groups of China
Group armies (simplified Chinese: 集团军; traditional Chinese: 集團軍; pinyin: jítuán jūn) or army groups or combined corps are corps-level military formations of the People's Liberation Army Ground Force of China.
Some may use or translate 'Group Army' loosely to mean the same as Army Group through various time periods of history, depending on whether the military formation is under Nationalist China (ROC) or Communist China (PRC). Chinese Army Group or Group Army could be equivalent to field army or army group in other militaries but NOT necessarily so. This is because while 军 in Chinese means "corps" when classifying by size or number of troops, it also means (and more frequently so) in common and less precise military usage - any significant grouping of combat troops / i.e. army (usually corps size or larger; including Army or Army Group as per defined by most international military forces).Chinese Army (disambiguation)
Two existing armies have been known in English as the Chinese Army:
People's Liberation Army Ground Force, the land force component of the People's Liberation Army in the People's Republic of China
Republic of China Army, which succeeded the National Revolutionary Army in 1947 and retreated to Taiwan in 1949For the Chinese army between 1927 and 1947, see:
National Revolutionary ArmyFor Chinese armies before 1912, see:
Military history of China (pre-1911)List of active People's Liberation Army aircraft
The following list of active People's Liberation Army aircraft is a list of military aircraft currently in service with all four branches of the People's Liberation Army. For retired aircraft, see list of historic aircraft of the People's Liberation Army Air Force.List of equipment of the People's Liberation Army Ground Force
Modern equipment of the People's Liberation Army Ground Force is a list of military equipment currently in service with the People's Liberation Army Ground Force.Macao Garrison
The People's Liberation Army Macao Garrison is the defence force stationed in Macau since December 20, 1999. It has been the responsibility of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA), which stations between 500-600 troops in Macau, primarily as a symbolic presence to underscore Chinese sovereignty.
The remainder of the 1,200-strong Macau garrison resides just across the Chinese border in Zhuhai. Although the Basic Law states that the Macau SAR government may "when necessary" ask the central government to allow the garrison to assist in maintaining public order or disaster relief, Chief Executive Ho has said that, in keeping with the Basic Law the garrison will play no role in internal security. The garrison has maintained a low profile, with soldiers generally wearing civilian clothing when off base and not engaging in business activities.People's Liberation Army Special Operations Forces
The People's Liberation Army special operations forces (simplified Chinese: 中国人民解放军特种部队; traditional Chinese: 中國人民解放軍特種部隊; pinyin: Zhōngguó Rénmín Jiěfàngjūn tèzhǒng bùduì) are the special forces of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA). The size of the Special Operations Forces is estimated to be between 7,000 and 14,000 troops. The forces intended combat role is as rapid-response units in the event of a limited regional war under high-tech conditions. They also carry out commando, counter-terrorism, and intelligence gathering operations.
The building up of China's special forces represents a shift in the country's operational thinking, from an army-dominated force structure to emphasizing integrated joint operations, with a flexible elite force.Ranks of the People's Liberation Army Air Force
The ranks in the Chinese People's Liberation Army Air Force are similar to those of the Chinese Army, formally known as the People's Liberation Army Ground Force, except that those of the PLA Air Force are prefixed by 空军 (Kong Jun) meaning Air Force. See Ranks of the People's Liberation Army or the article on an individual rank for details on the evolution of rank and insignia in the PLAAF. This article primarily covers the existing ranks and insignia.Ranks of the People's Liberation Army Ground Force
The People's Liberation Army has not always used ranks or insignia. In common with the practice of the Red Army at the time of its founding in 1927, neither were used until 1955 when a system of ranks was established. As a result of the Cultural Revolution, ranks were abolished in May 1965. After the Sino-Vietnamese War of 1979, reforms in the PLA began to be made to professionalize the armed forces once more. The 1984 Military Service Law provided for the resumption of rank, but disagreements on what ranks were to be used and who would receive them caused the revival of rank to be delayed until 1988. The following ranks and their respective insignia shown are those used by the People's Liberation Army Ground Force.Ranks of the People's Liberation Army Navy
The ranks in the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy are similar to those of the People's Liberation Army Ground Force, except that those of the PLA Navy are prefixed by 海军 (Hai Jun) meaning Naval Force or Navy. See Ranks of the People's Liberation Army or the article on an individual rank for details on the evolution of rank and insignia in the PLAN. This article primarily covers the existing ranks and insignia.
From 1956-65, similar insignia were used following the Soviet model, but unlike the Ground and Air Forces, PLAN ratings used shoulder boards for rank insignia. Line corps officers wore gold and blue shoulder boards on the dress uniform, staff corps officers white and blue. The duty uniform boards were a reverse of the dress uniform boards.Stanley Fort
Stanley Fort is a military installation on the south side of Hong Kong Island. Built originally to serve the British Armed Forces, it now houses the Hong Kong garrison of the Chinese People's Liberation Army Ground Force. It has also been used as Kai Chi Children's Centre and the Aberdeen Rehabilitation Centre.Tibet Military District
The Tibet Military District is a military district of the People's Liberation Army Ground Force. It was first established in 1952, possibly from elements previously part of the 18th Corps. In December 1968 it became part of the Chengdu Military Region.
The former Tibet Military Region was reduced to the status of a district in 1971.Type 81 (rocket launcher)
The Type 81 is a self-propelled 122 mm multiple rocket launcher (SPMRL) produced by the People's Republic of China for the People's Liberation Army Ground Force. It is a variant of the Soviet BM-21 Grad. The Type 81 was the first in a family of Chinese self-propelled 122 mm rocket launchers.The spin-stabilized rocket fired by the Type 81 may be armed with a high explosive warhead or a steel fragmentation warhead.ZFB-05
The ZFB-05 "New Star" or "Xinxing" is a Chinese armored personnel carrier developed mainly for the People's Liberation Army Ground Force. It is a simple and low-cost vehicle.
Structure of the People's Liberation Army Ground Force
|Eastern Theater Command|
|Southern Theater Command|
|Western Theater Command|
|Northern Theater Command|
|Central Theater Command|