Earlier this week, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) this week inaugurated “Vanguard-2010,” a series of air defense exercises involving a variety of units from the PLA Air Force (PLAAF), but also the PLA Navy (PLAN).
The exercises, as described in the Chinese press, will include fighter bombers, strike aircraft, electronic warfare aircraft, as well as air defense artillery and land-based helicopters. Of particular note, these drills will allow the PLAAF to test its ability to operate with other services under “complex electromagnetic conditions,” denoting electronic and information warfare operations.
Of no small importance is the location of these exercises—Shandong and Henan provinces, which are in the Jinan Military Region (MR). In the first place, the Jinan MR borders the Yellow Sea, where, in response to the North Korean sinking of the South Korean frigate Cheonan, U.S. and South Korean naval forces have also been engaging in military exercises. China had strongly protested the presence of the USS George Washington, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, in the Yellow Sea, which apparently led the Obama Administration to keep the U.S. ship east of the Korean peninsula.
Even more important, the Jinan MR is apparently where the PLA tests new concepts and doctrinal developments. Past military exercises involving joint operations among different Chinese services prominently noted the role of the Jinan MR. These exercises will include not only extensive electronic warfare, but the ability to undertake sustained night operations as well.
All of these efforts are a useful reminder that some nations remain focused on the ability to conduct high-intensity military operations. Given the simultaneous commitment of substantial Chinese resources to developing new weapons such as anti-ship ballistic missiles, the PLA is clearly seeking to develop not only the tactics and doctrine but the weapons necessary to assert naval dominance over the western Pacific.
It is therefore incumbent upon the Administration and Congress to devote the necessary resources to research and develop advanced platforms and weapons so that U.S military forces are ready and able to match any challenge posed by the PRC.