PLA Light Mechanized Infantry

Discussion in 'China' started by Kunal Biswas, Dec 15, 2010.

  1. Kunal Biswas

    Kunal Biswas Member of the Year 2011 Moderator

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    This Thread primary purpose is to gain knowledge abt PLA 155th Light Mechanized Regiment, The primary purpose to Study the light Mechanized infantry in mountain terrain

    In this Thread we will strictly stick to Mil topics and strategy

    Members are requested not to talk abt following issues:

    1. No Taiwan issue..

    2. No Indian corruption issue..

    3. No Tibet's political Issues..

    4. No Pakistani army issues..




    Thanks!
     
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  3. Kunal Biswas

    Kunal Biswas Member of the Year 2011 Moderator

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    Introduction

    PLA’s Latest Experiment With Mobility and Fire Power:
    A Look at the Special (Experimental) Light Mechanized Infantry Regiment,
    31st Group Army, Chengdu Military Region


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    The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has been described as a large but technologically dated defensive army with limited offensive capabilities. Its past campaigns were carried out with large units of light infantry backed by massive artillery firepower. This force structure where general manpower was plentiful, but funding, technology, and specialized troops were not, offered only limited strategic options to PLA. This article details the PLA’s most recent attempt at modernization, the experimental Light Mechanized Infantry Regiment.

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    New PLA Joint Doctrine

    The technology and complexity of war have increased greatly since the PLA last saw combat. To keep place with those changes and utilize new technologies made available by China’s successful economic reform, the PLA has developed a new joint operations doctrine to fight a limited war around China’s periphery with the focus on a short and intense campaign. This joint campaign doctrine requires a complete overhaul of the PLA’s current force structure by moving away from massive homogenous infantry and artillery formations to multi-branch, high tech, highly mobile, lethal forces capable of offensive operations. The PLA now believes victory can be achieved by attacking the enemy’s vital but fragile targets such as command nodes, communication centers, transportation hubs, airfields, and high-tech weapon platforms, with all available land, air, sea and space forces. Winning the battle against an enemy’s key points will allow the PLA to size the initiative on both tactical and strategic levels and facilitate a short decisive campaign.

    The new PLA joint doctrine provides that highly mobile forces allow surprise attacks against an unprepared enemy and concentrated firepower allows quick destruction of the enemy’s vital points without time to mount a meaningful defense. Although mobile forces generally carry limited supply, their concentrated firepower allows for fewer platforms to achieve results with a reduced expenditure of munitions. In addition, Close Air Support from fighter-bombers of the Air Force (PLAAF) and attack helicopters of Army Aviation (LH) are expected to be more responsive to these mobile forces, and Second Artillery campaign units will deliver long-range firepower.

    Experimental Unit

    Like other militaries around the world, the PLA fields experimental units to test new doctrines and equipment. The 155th Infantry Regiment, 149th Mechanized Infantry Division, 13th Group Army was designated the new Special (Experimental) Light Mechanized Infantry Regiment (LMR) in October 2005. For evaluating their new mobility-based doctrine the PLA chose a unit based in western China where rough terrain is the norm. Jungles near Vietnam, deserts of Xinjing, and the mountains of Tibet all restrict movement in the region where the 155th Regiment and its parent the 149th Division serve as the Rapid Reaction Unit.

    A unit with a proud lineage, the 149th Division has a long history in the region. The 149th was credited with the destruction of the Indian 7th Brigade during the Sino-India War of 1962, and scored a victory over the 174th and 148th Regiments of the Vietnamese 316A Division during the Sino-Vietnam war of 1979 earning a unit citation. Elements of the 149th again served with distinction during the 1989 imposition of marshal law in Tibet, when the 446th Regiment was airlifted to Lhasa to reinforce the local garrison.

    The 155th Infantry Regiment appears to be a good candidate to prove the concepts of the new PLA joint doctrine. For many years the 155th has operated as a Rapid Reaction Unit operating across western China. In addition, the 155th was one of first infantry units in western China to be mechanized, and the 155th was also one of the first PLA units to include an organic UAV detachment. Reorganized now as Light Mechanized Infantry, the 155th will once again lead the way for the PLA.

    Within the PLA there already exist highly mobile formations that primarily employ wheeled vehicles for transport: the Motorized Infantry. According to CCTV, there are four major areas where Light Mechanized Infantry differs from Motorized Infantry, they are:

    1. Compared to motorized infantry, light mechanized infantry has a much-increased overall mobility.
    2. Enhanced air mobility, enabling rapid vertical envelopment.
    3. Compared to motorized infantry, a light mechanized infantry formation has much increased firepower.
    4. Surface mobility of the light mechanized infantry is increased, enabling operations in mountain, jungle, and desert terrain.

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    Command and control are areas where the LMR differs from other PLA infantry regiments. While regular PLA infantry regiments are commanded by Lieutenant Colonels, like a PLA Special Operations Regiment a Colonel commands the LMR. According to Central China Television (CCTV) reports, each battalion within the LMR has a large headquarters staff with PLAAF liaison officers, satellite communication equipment, UAV feeds, and the unusual authority to make all tactical decisions. A small Regimental Headquarters is for administrative and logistics purposes only. Within the LMR, tactical formations are task organized Groups instead of traditional 3-by-3 structured organizations. Groups are battalion-sized formations assembled for a specific mission, roughly equivalent to a US Army Task Force.

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    Communications capabilities and the use of computers within the LMR appear to be quite robust by PLA standards. At least two satellite uplinks have been observed in use within the LMR, one manpack and one vehicle mounted, but more remarkable is a voice and data capability linking individual vehicles with command posts. Reportedly most vehicles have digital connectivity with higher command posts via battle command software resident on an onboard Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) device. Digital messaging in the form of a Call-for-Fire has been demonstrated; it is unclear to what extent situational awareness reporting is automated if at all. Also unclear is the method of digital connectivity from individual vehicles to higher headquarters. Owing to the apparently lone antenna on most vehicles it is implied that data piggybacks on a tactical voice radio. Many command post vehicles have antennas associated with terrestrial-based digital radios. At least two large telescoping masts estimated to be 36-meters high have been seen to have the same “digital” antenna. At least one vehicle has also been observed with two-way low bandwidth satellite antenna similar to ones used in the commercial trucking industry. Use of hardened military laptop computers and large projected displays appeared widespread during a CCTV segment featuring an LMR command post.


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    The LMR is an infantryman's answer to the demands of the new PLA joint doctrine. If an infantryman is told that the important targets are the soft ones behind the lines, he wants to know how he can get there and stick them with his bayonet. In a style of warfare where “shock effect” really matters, the impact of an LMIC overrunning command nodes and logistic centers would be devastating.

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  4. Kunal Biswas

    Kunal Biswas Member of the Year 2011 Moderator

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    Organization and Equipment

    Organization and Equipment

    From CCTV reports and press releases, the organization of the experimental LMR can be deduced. While a full PLA regiment normally consists of three maneuver battalions, photos and other evidence suggest that in this experimental LMR only one maneuver Group has been formed for testing purposes. Of the units that have been formed, it is difficult to determine which would be organic to the battalions and which would only be present at the regimental level.

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    At the heart of the LMR are its Light Mechanized Infantry Companies (LMIC). The LMICs combine the flexibility of dismounted infantry with the mobility of motorized forces without having a significant logistic tail. Unique to the LMIC is the 8x8 All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV). The 8x8 ATV routinely carries six infantrymen: a squad leader, gunner, driver, and three others that form a dismounted fireteam. 8x8 ATVs have been seen armed with either a QJZ89 12.7mm heavy machinegun (HMG) or a W87 35mm automatic grenade launcher (AGL) and reportedly sometimes mount a mortar. All 8x8 ATVs appear to have a provision for mounting the QBB95 5.8mm squad automatic weapon on a pintle at the front-left of the ATV. Each 8x8 ATV is also equipped with a winch, tactical radio, satellite positioning system, and tactical data terminal. The 8x8 ATV is capable of negotiating very rough terrain and with a quick modification is amphibious. It appears the 8x8 ATV in use by the LMIC is very similar in layout and dimensions to the Argo Centaur, a commercial 8x8 ATV manufactured by Ontario Drive & Gear Limited of Canada. In order to gain an appreciation of the capabilities of this uncommon vehicle, below are the operational specifications for the Centaur 8x8 ATV:
    Engine Turbo Diesel, in-line 3 cylinder, 4 cycle, liquid cooled, 31 HP
    Load Capacity 1500 lbs / 680 kg on land - 700 lbs / 320 kg in water
    Fuel Capacity 12.6 U.S. gal. / 48 liters providing approx. 10 hours of operation
    Speed

    28 mph / 45 km/h on land - 2.5 mph / 4 km/h on water
    Vehicle Weight 2100 lbs/950 kg empty, 3600 lbs/1633 kg max

    Rounding out the 8-man infantry squad are two soldiers who ride a 4x4 ATV. Like the 8x8 ATV, the 4x4 ATV also has a provision for mounting a QBB95 squad automatic weapon on a front-left pintle. The 4x4 ATV forms a second vehicle element within the squad for bounding overwatch and fire and maneuver battle drills. Reportedly the 4x4 ATVs are also used for diversionary tactics, logistics resupply, and medical evacuation. Other support weapons seen within the LMIC are the FJH84 twin-barreled incendiary rocket launcher and 82mm Type 75 recoilless rifles.

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    Augmenting the already formidable firepower of the LMIC is the Fire Support Company (FSC). The mainstay of the FSC is the “Brave Warrior” Fast Attack Vehicle (FAV) that has been in service with PLA airborne and special operations forces for some time. However, a new model of FAV, the “Iron Eagle”, is also deployed in several potent new armament configurations not seen in PLA service before. For direct fire support, one FAV mounts a minigun-type machinegun of undetermined caliber. For indirect fire support several FAVs are armed with the devastating W99, an 82mm Automortar in the pattern of the Russian 2B9 Vasilyek. Several air defense versions with a secondary direct fire role are armed with the Type 87 twin 25mm cannon and dual HN-5 surface-to-air missiles. At least one FAV has been seen armed with a HJ-8 antitank guided missile launcher (ATGM) and others with heavy machineguns and automatic grenade launchers. Unlike the 8x8 ATVs of the LMIC, the FAVs cannot be internally loaded in an Mi-17 transport helicopter, but with all FAVs featuring prominent sling points they are likely slingload compatible. Also within the FSC is one Sino-Mab Group Industries model XZ-AT-400 4x4 ATV that carries a sniper team with a JS 12.7mm sniper/anti-materiel rifle.

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    Another novel formation within the LMR is the Artillery Battery. The LMR Artillery Battery replicates the tube, rocket, and anti-tank batteries of a typical PLA artillery battalion in a microcosm. Tube artillery is represented by a platoon of PP87 82mm mortars carried in **2020SJ jeeps. A platoon of unique 8-tube launchers mounted on 6x6 ATVs delivers 107mm rockets. The new PTL02 105mm 6x6 wheeled assault gun provides antitank firepower to the LMR.

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    The Recon Platoon performs reconnaissance duties for the LMR. This small but capable organization consists of a three Beijing Jeeps and two 4x4 ATVs. One Beijing Jeep carries a small command and control element, two HN-5 man portable surface to air missiles (MANPADS), and tows a small cargo trailer. Two dune-buggy Beijing Jeeps each mount a heavy machinegun and two HJ-73 ATGMs. Two 4x4 ATVs carry another recon element and the capable PF89 120mm Recoilless Rifle. CCTV video has shown the Recon Platoon being slingloaded by S70C Blackhawk helicopters of the Chengdu 2nd LH Regiment. 2nd Regiment Blackhawks are known to have a habitual operational relationship with PLA special operations units and are almost certainly some of the most competent pilots to support the LMR air assault mission.

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    In contrast to the wheeled vehicles of the rest of the LMR, the Heavy Mechanized Infantry Company (HMIC) weighs in with tracked fighting vehicles. The HMIC consists of three platoons: one of Type 96 Main Battle Tanks (MBT), another of Type 86 Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFV), and a third of the new ZBD97 IFV. Each of these vehicles requires a host of specialist mechanics, unique spare parts, and different types of ammunition. Instead of representing the final organizational design of a full LMR, the presence of the HMIC within the experimental LMR may only be for examining the potential for synergistic interaction between heavy tracked vehicles and the lighter components of the LMR. Should the LMR design ever be adopted for widespread PLA use these tracked vehicles, particularly the tanks, may be omitted from the organization.

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    Finally, the LMR has both a UAV and electronic warfare detachment. These valuable assets provide the LMR Groups with timely surveillance and electronic intelligence. While both detachments have convention electronics vans for their heavier equipment, the UAV detachment also has at least one 8x8 ATV specially modified to carry UAVs.

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    The mix of heavy and light units that make up the experimental LMR raises many questions regarding the training and supportability of such a dissimilar force. It is unclear if the LMIC, HMIC, and FSC are each placeholders for a full maneuver battalion within a complete LMR, or if each maneuver battalion would have the mix of units seen in the experimental LMR. It may even be that each of the various types of units within the LMR represents a competing organizational design.

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  5. Kunal Biswas

    Kunal Biswas Member of the Year 2011 Moderator

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    Employment

    Employment
    The LMIC, HMIC, and FSC collectively constitute the maneuver punch of the LMR, but their individual methods of operational employment differ greatly. The HMIC and FSC represent the armored fist and light cavalry of classical warfare, but the specialized air assault credentials of the LMIC merit an in-depth examination.

    The light mechanized infantry squad’s 8x8 ATV and 4x4 ATV will fit in the Mi-17 HIP, a medium lift helicopter nearly ubiquitous in PLA LH service. Once out of the helicopter it only takes a few seconds to mount a crew-served weapon on the 8x8 ATV. Compared to externally slinging vehicles, this ability to internally load two combat vehicles provides greatly increased tactical flexibility when performing air assault operations. Pickup, insertion, and extraction of forces are greatly expedited. There is no requirement to carry slings on a mission, no specialized slingload training required for the troops, and no time spent combat ineffective while the vehicles are rigged for slinging. Further, for the helicopters there is no airspeed reduction enroute nor maneuvering restriction at the landing zone due to carrying a pendulous slingload. All these advantages make the LMIC a superb tool for executing the lightning fast air assault raids envisioned in the new PLA joint doctrine.

    While dismounted air assault forces traditionally land on their objective, the added mobility of an LMIC allows it the option of being inserted a terrain-feature away from the objective. By inserting the LMIC away from defenders instead of on top of them, the most vulnerable phase of an air assault operation is avoided. Land, unload, form up, orient leaders, and then advance toward the objective. While some surprise may be lost, the tremendous tactical mobility of the LMIC adds an element of deception as their actual objective is not obvious.

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    Contrasting with the airmobile agility of the LMIC is the heavy armor of the HMIC. With two platoons of infantry fighting vehicles and one of tanks, the HMIC is not a candidate for airlift by Mi-17 helicopters. Three possible scenarios have been postulated for use of the HMIC. One, following a shallow air assault insertion of an LMIC the HMIC attempts to break through and link up. Two, after the LMIC secures an airfield via air assault the HMIC is inserted on PLAAF transport aircraft to reinforce it. Three, the HMIC is a placeholder for a future capability. Of these possibilities the third appears the most plausible.

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    At the 2006 Farnborough International Air Show Russian helicopter manufacturer Rostvertol announced that it was opening a joint venture in China to market its Mi26T HALO heavy-lift helicopter. Should this massive aircraft make its way into PLA hands it would exponentially increase the capability of an LMR. Heavier armored vehicles of the LMR such as the ZBD97 IFV could be internally loaded in a HALO, and large vehicles such as the PTL02 assault gun could be slingloaded. The PLA is known to have developed a new light tank based on the type 89 chassis. If this new tank were to replace the Type 96 tank in the HMIC the entire LMR would be airmobile via Mi-26 HALO.

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    Employment of the LMR will certainly be a joint endeavor for the PLA. Although fighter aircraft are known to have difficulty finding and engaging low-flying helicopters, the success of the LMR will depend on the PLAAF’s ability to keep enemy fighter aircraft away from LH helicopters. Sophisticated air defense systems also have the potential to impede the mobility of the LMR. Second Artillery units may be called upon to neutralize the air defense threat. These challenges are not new to the LMR, air assault formations worldwide have developed tactics and techniques to minimize the threat poised by enemy aircraft and air defenses. The PLA will develop their own approach to countering this threat.
     
  6. badguy2000

    badguy2000 Respected Member Senior Member

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    the terrain in CHina varies much...
    fully heavy mechanized troops are not fit for the moutainous south of CHina.
    So,most troops of PLA deployed in the south of China are light armor troops,including those PLA troops in Tibet.
     
  7. Kunal Biswas

    Kunal Biswas Member of the Year 2011 Moderator

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    LMIC Logistics & Conclusion

    LMIC Logistics

    Logistically, the LMIC has relatively small requirements. All ammunition consumed by the unit does not require material handling equipment to move and can be internally loaded within helicopters. Fuel consumption for an entire LMIC during a 450km march is estimated at a modest 225 gallons (846 liters). It is expected that this fuel would be diesel; however, the domestically manufactured 4x4 ATVs seen in the LMR are not known to have diesel-powered versions. Diesel powered ATV technology is well developed and a single-fuel LMR would be a likely near-term development.

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    Resupply of an inserted LMIC could be readily accomplished via use of the Mi-17 HIP helicopter. In addition to slingloading fuel blivets, PLA Mi-17 helicopters have been observed refueling ground vehicles using two hoses running from the cabin interior. The Mi-17 is routinely capable of carrying two 242-gallon (915 liter) internal fuel tanks for ferry purposes, these could be reconfigured for use in refueling vehicles. The voluminous interior of the Mi-17 is nearly 775 cubic feet (22 cubic meters) with a max internal capacity of 8818 lbs (4000kg) or a 6613 lbs (3000kg) slingload. A few sorties of Mi-17 helicopters per day have the capacity to sustain the LMIC in the field.

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    Conclusion

    The LMR, like all air assault formations, is an attempt to escape the two-dimensional boundaries of classic positional warfare. After decades of “People’s War” doctrine, the PLA appears poised to move into a new era where mobility trumps mass. In nearly every potential conflict scenario envisioned for the PLA, from reunification to nuclear exchange, the mobility of the LMR will make it a decisive unit on the battlefield.

    With a constant stream of official press releases regarding the experimental LMR and its activities, it appears the PLA is quite proud. In recent years the PLAAF and Navy have had their share of showcase units and high-tech weapons, the LMR is the PLA’s chance to demonstrate it too has evolved into a cutting-edge force. PLA observers should continue to watch what happens in Chengdu.

    Order of Battle

    Regimental Admin and Logistics Center

    Battalion HQ

    Light Mechanized Infantry Company
    6x 8x8 ATV w/QJZ8912.7mm HMG
    3x 8x8 ATV w/W87 35mm AGL
    3x 8x8 ATV w/PP93 60mm Mortar
    9x 4x4 ATV

    Heavy Mechanized Infantry Company
    3x Type 96 Main Battle Tank
    3x Type 86 Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV)
    3x ZBD97 IFV

    Fire Support Company
    1x Company HQ FAV
    1x FAV w/Minigun
    1x FAV w/HJ-8 ATGM FAV
    3x FAV w/W99 82mm Automortar
    3x FAV w/Type 87 25mm/SAM
    3x FAV w/QJZ8912.7mm HMG
    3x FAV w/W87 35mm
    1x 4x4 ATV w/JS 12.7mm Sniper Rifle

    Artillery Battery
    Battery HQ/Fire Direction Center
    3x 82mm Mortar
    3x PTL02 105mm Wheeled Anti-Tank Gun
    3x 107mm Multiple Rocket Launcher ATVs

    Recon Platoon
    1x Command Jeep with 2x HN-5 MANPADS
    2x Dune Buggy Jeeps w/Heavy Machinegun/HJ-73 ATGM
    1x 4x4 ATV with PF98 120mm Recoilless Rifle
    1x 4x4 ATV

    Electronic Warfare Detachment

    UAV Detachment

    Medical Detachment (at least two 4x4 ATV ambulances)

    LMIC Weapon Totals

    6x QJZ89 12.7mm HMG
    3x W87 35mm AGL
    3x PP93 60mm Mortar
    3x Type 75 82mm RR
    18x QBB95 5.8mm SAW
    56x QBZ95 5.8mm Rifles
    ?x FJH84 Incendiary Rocket Launcher
     
  8. Kunal Biswas

    Kunal Biswas Member of the Year 2011 Moderator

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