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The Creation of the PLA Strategic Support Force and Its Implications for Chinese Military Space Operations

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Technical Report

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RAND Corporation Santa Monica United States

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This report is based on RAND Project AIR FORCE Strategy and Doctrine Program research that was presented at the second China Aerospace Studies Institute conference, sponsored by Headquarters, U.S. Air Force. It was held at RANDs Arlington, Va., office and took place on May 2, 2016. Experts on airpower, military operations, and Chinese military modernization participated in the conference and provided valuable feedback to the report authors. The resulting reports assess notable developments and implications of Chinas emerging aerospace expeditionary and power projection capabilities. As Chinas economic, diplomatic, and security interests continue to expand, the Peoples Liberation Army PLA and, in particular, its aerospace forces - including Air Force, Naval Aviation, and space capabilities - will require more robust power projection and expeditionary capabilities on a par with Chinas expanding global footprint. In addition to traditional security concerns like Taiwan and maritime territorial disputes, such issues as countering terrorism, humanitarian assistancedisaster relief, and sea-lane protection have now become factors in the PLAs training, doctrine, and modernization efforts. In addition, command of space, including the military use of outer space, is of increasing interest to the PLA as it seeks to develop new capabilities and operating concepts to support its growing range of military missions. This report focuses on the establishment of the PLAs Strategic Support Force SSF, which was announced on December 31, 2015. The SSF is charged with overseeing Chinese military space, cyber, and electronic warfare capabilities, and its development will have important implications for Chinas emerging aerospace expeditionary and power projection capabilities.

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