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CASI Primer on Chinese Aerospace Trends

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) continues to develop rapidly across all aspects- hardware, technology, personnel, organization, etc. The PLA’s aerospace forces are, in many ways, leading that change. These include the PLA Air Force (PLAAF), PLA Rocket Force (PLARF), Naval Aviation, and space and cyber assets affiliated with the PLA Strategic Support Force (PLASSF). This inaugural volume from the China Aerospace Studies Institute (CASI), seeks to provide a brief primer on the trends affecting these forces and provide basic information about their composition and role today.

This publication outlines the roles and missions of China’s aerospace forces, the PLA Air Force and its five branches, the PLA Rocket Force, and the PLA Strategic Support Force. It also identifies trends in PLA aerospace training and operational proficiency for these forces, and discusses the near-term outlook. There is a plethora of information, which evolves on an almost constant basis, available to leaders and policymakers on the hardware and technical aspects of these forces. As such, that is not the focus of this publication. Rather, this work is intended to serve as foundational work, capturing a snapshot of capabilities, and an outline of organizations, while identifying trends underway at the time of its writing, late 2016 to summer 2017.

CASI supports the U.S. Defense Department and the China research com­munity writ-large by providing high quality, unclassified research on Chinese aerospace developments in the context of U.S. strategic imperatives in the Asia- Pacific region. Primarily focused on China’s Military Air, Space, and Missile Forces, CASI capitalizes on publicly available native language resources to gain insights as to how the Chinese speak to and among one another on these topics.

With this first volume, CASI begins to describe the fundamentals in the field. Further research projects will expand on the framework laid out in this primer, and will both expand and deepen public knowledge of developments in Chinese aerospace. While primarily focused on developments related to the services and branches of the People’s Liberation Army’s aerospace assets and forces, CASI will also explore topics and areas related to the support infrastructure, industrial base, and civil-military integration, that combines together to form the overall China aerospace field.

CASI would like to acknowledge the work and effort of its Research Director, Ken Allen, for the writing, editing, and countless revisions to this publication to make sure it was relevant and up to date. CASI would like to thank the CASI Associates and all those that contributed to the compilation of data, research, and writing, of this volume, particularly Mike, Derek, and Lyle.

We hope you will find this volume useful and timely, and welcome any feedback on its contents, or suggestions for further or future research in this field.

Dr. Brendan S. Mulvaney

Director, China Aerospace Studies Institute

Click here for a PDF of the full report CASI_Primer 2017.pdf

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