Shaking the Heavens and Splitting the Earth

Shaking the Heavens and Splitting the Earth: Chinese Air Force Employment Concepts in the 21st Century

Roger Cliff
John Fei
Jeff Hagen
Elizabeth Hague
Eric Heginbotham
John Stillion
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: RAND Corporation
Pages: 306
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  • Book Info
    Shaking the Heavens and Splitting the Earth
    Book Description:

    This monograph analyzes published Chinese and Western sources about current and future capabilities and employment concepts of the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF). It describes how those capabilities and concepts might be realized in a conflict over Taiwan, assesses the implications of China implementing them, and provides recommendations about actions that should be taken in response.

    eISBN: 978-0-8330-5191-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Preface
    (pp. iii-vi)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. Figures
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Summary
    (pp. xv-xxvi)
  6. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxvii-xxviii)
  7. Abbreviations
    (pp. xxix-xxxii)
  8. CHAPTER ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    China’s air force is in the midst of a transformation. A decade ago, it was an antiquated service equipped almost exclusively with weapons based on 1950s-era Soviet designs and operated by personnel with questionable training according to outdated employment concepts. Today, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) appears to be on its way to becoming a modern, highly capable air force for the 21st century. In 1999, for example, the PLAAF operated about 3,500 combat aircraft. Of these, the vast majority were based on the Soviet MiG-19 and MiG-21 fighter aircraft, both of which first flew in the 1950s....

  9. CHAPTER TWO The Organization of China’s Air and Missile Forces
    (pp. 13-32)

    To understand the organization of Chinese aerospace power, it is useful to examine how it fits into the overall structure of China’s armed forces.¹ The Chinese leadership controls the Chinese military through the Central Military Commission (CMC), which, in recent years, has consisted of China’s top civilian leader (currently Hu Jintao, secretary general of the Communist Party of China and president of the People’s Republic of China, or PRC), and several top military leaders.² The CMC leads and directs China’s military, called the PLA, through four general departments: the General Staff Department .. , the General Political Department .. .....

  10. CHAPTER THREE The Evolution of Chinese Air Force Doctrine
    (pp. 33-46)

    Fingerprints of core warfighting concepts that were advanced by Mao Zedong in the 1930s are still found in PLA and PLAAF employment concepts today. “Active defense,” which is regarded as China’s military strategy, was formulated by Mao as part of his “people’s war” concept and is basically a strategy of weakness.¹ This strategy of weakness persists even to the present, since it is necessitated by the fact that potential PRC adversaries tend to have superior weapons and equipment. At its most basic level, active defense involves “taking tactically offensive action within a basically defensive strategy.”² The parameters within which this...

  11. CHAPTER FOUR Chinese Concepts for the Employment of Air Forces
    (pp. 47-84)

    Chinese concepts for the employment of air forces are developing quickly. PLAAF texts in the early 1990s noted that, in modern combat, air operations take place over a larger space than in the past, the battle-field situation can change rapidly, EW is more intense, PGMs are used more frequently, services’ operations are more integrated, and combat is more destructive.1 More recently, areas of airpower that have been described as receiving increased attention include expanding the functions and missions of airpower, improving “ comprehensive war fighting capabilities” .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. , new technologies to enable these...

  12. CHAPTER FIVE Air Offensive Campaigns
    (pp. 85-116)

    Chinese military publications identify four distinct types of air force campaigns: air offensive campaigns, air defense campaigns, airborne campaigns, and air blockade campaigns. Air offensive and air defense campaigns are the most important types for the PLAAF. These can be either air force–only campaigns or, more frequently, air force– led joint campaigns that incorporate other services. These air force campaigns can also be part of broader joint campaigns, such as an island-landing campaign or joint blockade campaign.

    An offensive air campaign can also be called an “air strike campaign” or “air raid campaign”. It is usually part of a...

  13. CHAPTER SIX Air Defense Campaigns
    (pp. 117-144)

    In its thinking on air defense employment concepts, the PLA draws on its own traditions, while adjusting its methods in keeping with what it views as predominant trends in technology and capability. Air defense has historically been the raison d’être of the PLAAF. It has traditionally received the greatest emphasis in doctrinal thought, although, today, belief in the efficacy of offensive air action is growing, and air defense campaigns do not enjoy the pride of place they once held. Nevertheless, air defense operations receive greater emphasis in China than they do in many countries (including those with roughly comparable technology)....

  14. CHAPTER SEVEN Air Blockade Campaigns
    (pp. 145-164)

    Air blockade campaigns are another air force campaign type discussed by the PLA. An authoritative source describes them as “offensive air combat implemented to cut off the enemy’s traffic as well as economic and military links with the outside world.” These campaigns are, according to this source, carried out “mainly by air forces, under the support and cooperation of other services and local armed forces.” “An air blockade mission,” the source continues, “is often carried out simultaneously with ground and maritime blockade missions; it is implemented separately only under special circumstances.”¹ The scope of air blockade campaigns is therefore defined...

  15. CHAPTER EIGHT Airborne Campaigns
    (pp. 165-178)

    Airborne campaigns .. .. .. .. .. .. are defined as combat action in the enemy depth carried out by airborne forces, air forces, and other forces of other services and branches. Usually, airborne campaigns are part of a larger joint campaign, but sometimes they are independent. They are extremely complex campaigns with many steps involved.

    1 PLA sources emphasize that one of the advantages of airborne campaigns is that they use long-range, surprise air raids to transcend natural, geographic, and man-made barriers. Airborne campaigns aim at the enemy’s key points (transportation hubs, chokepoints, and centers of gravity) and at...

  16. CHAPTER NINE The Role of Other Services in Air Force Campaigns
    (pp. 179-186)

    The importance of conducting joint operations is a consistent theme of recent PLA publications, and the publications analyzed for this study frequently point out the roles that services besides the PLAAF would play in an air force campaign. Accordingly, this chapter provides a brief discussion of the role of the PLAN and Second Artillery in air force campaigns. The first section deals with naval air and air defense employment concepts. The second section deals with the Second Artillery’s role in air force campaigns.

    An extensive treatment of naval air and air defense employment concepts is beyond the scope of this...

  17. CHAPTER TEN Possible PLAAF Operational Concepts, Capabilities, and Tactics in a Taiwan Strait Conflict
    (pp. 187-224)

    This chapter translates the general air force employment principles described in Chapters Four through Nine into a set of specific operational concepts and tactics for PLA air operations over and across the Taiwan Strait in the 2015–2020 time frame. The purpose of the analysis in this chapter is to identify the operational goals the PLA might seek to achieve and the operational concepts it might use in pursuing them. Key aspects examined here include how the PLA might protect its air bases and aircraft, how it might divide the airspace over and across the strait to facilitate and deconflict...

  18. CHAPTER ELEVEN Conclusions and Implications
    (pp. 225-246)

    The most immediate observation that suggests itself from the analysis of Chinese military publications on air force operations as described in the preceding chapters is how systematic and comprehensive they are. Few militaries in the world have such extensive published documentation on the employment of air forces. The concepts described, moreover, appear to be realistic and practical, drawing on the experience of other air forces in recent conflicts, particularly those of the United States (the PLAAF having had no significant combat experience since the 1950s), but remaining appropriate to the current and near-future capabilities of the PLAAF. Chinese military analysts...

  19. Bibliography
    (pp. 247-256)
  20. Index
    (pp. 257-274)
  21. Back Matter
    (pp. 275-275)