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Training the People's Liberation Army Air Force Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) Forces


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This report analyzes key trends and themes in China's People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) surface-to-air missile (SAM) unit training. After providing background information on China's air defense forces, the report introduces the basics of PLAAF SAM training, including training requirements, trends in recent training activities, and analysis of training themes. To analyze training activities and provide basic quantitative indicators, we constructed a data set that includes every SAM training activity discussed within a one-year time frame from November 1, 2013, to October 31, 2014, in the PLAAF's official newspaper, Kongjun Bao (hereafter abbreviated as KJB). We also draw from previous studies and data on SAM training. Based on this research, we found that PLAAF SAM units are improving their capabilities, although progress is uneven and capabilities may vary significantly between similarly equipped units. Based on data collected on PLAAF SAM training activities, the intensity of SAM training varies across China's former seven military regions. SAM units near the capital area and in the coastal regions appear to be most active. SAM units follow a yearly training cycle, with training peaking during the summer and early fall. Content-wise, PLAAF SAM units are engaging in more realistic and challenging combat training compared with the mid-2000s. They are moving beyond supporting PLAAF aviation training to actively participating in more complex training exercises, including countering and defeating aviation opponents engaged in sophisticated air assaults. They have increased the duration and difficulty of their training, continue to emphasize denial and deception tactics, and focus significant efforts on countering low- and extreme-low altitude targets.



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