PLA Aerospace Power: A Primer on Trends in China's Military Air, Space, and Missile Forces
China Aerospace Studies Institute Maxwell AFB United States
Over the last two and a half decades, the Peoples Republic of China PRC has invested heavily in the modernization of its military forces. These effortshave yielded dramatic improvements in the personnel, organizational structure, equipment, training, doctrine, and overall proficiency of the Peoples Liberation Army PLA. Chinas air, space, and missile forces in particularcollectively referred to here as the PLAs aerospace forceshave transformed rapidly from a comparatively low base of capabilities in the 1990s into forces that today could pose significant challenges to any opponent. Chinas military leaders have observed the evolution of other nations forces and have taken lessons from recent conflicts. They have sought to rebuild their own aerospace capabilities with these changes in mind. China seeks to modernize its aerospace forcesincluding weapons, equipment, personnel, and organizational structureto support an increasingly ambitious regional security strategy that involves deterring any adversary, and, should deterrence fail, prevailing in combat. At the start of 2016, Chinese President Xi Jinping, in his role as Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party CCP Central Committees Military Commission CMC, announced major structural reforms to the PLA. Notably, Xi elevated the PLAs Second Artillery Force PLASAFonce an independent branch of the PLAto service-level stature on par with the three other services Army, Navy, and Air Force and renamed it the PLA Rocket Force PLARF.1 The PLARF has historically been charged with developing nuclear strike and counterstrike options, but its mission and capabilities have grown since the early 1990s to include carrying out conventional ballistic and cruise missile strikes. Xi also established the PLAs Strategic Support Force PLASSF to support joint combat operations in space and to conduct operations in the electromagnetic spectrum.