China Sends 4 Divisions on Long-Range Exercise
TAIPEI - Four Chinese armored divisions are traveling more than 1,200 kilometers to sharpen their ability to move long distances and conduct exercises in unfamiliar territory.
Dubbed Stride-2009, the two-month exercise, which began Aug. 11, involves 50,000 troops from the Shenyang, Lanzhou, Jinan and Guangzhou regions. Chinese media are calling it the People's Liberation Army's largest-ever tactical armor exercise.
"We know that four divisions from four Military Regions will each travel separately by road, rail and air to four separate combined-arms training centers in distant Military Regions," said Dennis Blasko, a former U.S. Army foreign area officer specializing in China. "As with all Chinese use of superlatives, one must be careful to determine exactly what is meant by the 'largest-ever tactical military exercise.'"
For example, Blasko said,the tri-service 2001 Liberation-1 amphibious exercise conducted at Dongshan Island lasted four months and involved nearly 100,000 troops. And in the Peace Mission 2007 exercise, 1,600 troops traveled over land from Xinjiang, China, to the mountainous Ural region of Russia.
Another analyst said Stride-2009 appeared to be part of China's effort to test and develop its ability to mobilize its armed forces on a large scale.
"No matter where it ultimately chooses to send its forces, its first step will be to concentrate them at some point of embarkation within China. That will involve movements of this type," said Thomas Kane, author of the book, "Chinese Grand Strategy and Maritime Power."
Kane noted that recent years have seen an increase in internal unrest, with uprisings in Tibet and the Uighur Xinjiang region; angry protests about the response to last year's Sichuan earthquake; and public disruptions linked to a rise in unemployment. But he said these situations simply do not require 50,000 heavily armored troops.
Instead, Kane linked Stride-2009 to China's attempt to mimic the C4 revolution in the U.S. military.
"In my interpretation, the primary reason for deploying troops in unfamiliar levels is to test command and control procedures," he said. "I scarcely need to add that effective procedures for command, control, communications and whatever else the Pentagon has bolted onto its latest acronym for such concepts are an important part of what distinguishes forces that are effective in warfare from forces that merely look impressive on paper."
Stride-2009 is at least the third large PLA exercise this summer. In July, four brigades from the Second Artillery Division had a field exercise, and in June, about 100 aircraft from the Guangzhou Military Region Air Force were involved in another large exercise, Blasko said.
"However, it is noteworthy that the earlier Second Artillery and PLAAF exercises were not joint, though at least the deployment phase of Stride-2009 is," he said. "It will be interesting to see how much the PLA Air Force participates in the live-fire phases of the exercise."
China Sends 4 Divisions on Long-Range Exercise - Defense News