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Army Fuel Keeps Air Force Aircraft Flying

  • Published
  • By Derek Solen
  • China Aerospace Studies Institute

In mid-February it was reported that a unit of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force was receiving aviation fuel and other supplies from a supply base of the PLA Army. The report provides more evidence that the PLA is improving its joint logistics capability, as previously assessed by CASI.[1]

The report was published in Liberation Army News (also known as PLA Daily), the mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Military Commission, which is equivalent to the U.S. Defense Department. The aforementioned PLA Air Force unit is an unspecified field station of the Western Theater Air Force.[2] Field stations are combat support units, not facilities.

According to the report, although the airfield that the field station services is near a PLA Army supply base, in the past only army aviation units could use the aviation fuel that is stored at the base, so the field station could only receive fuel by trucking it from a PLA Air Force oil depot “through many places over tens of kilometers.”[3] This inefficiency was resolved by the two services’ agreeing that the supply base would supply aviation fuel to the field station through a pipeline that was subsequently lain.[4] It was also agreed that the supply base would supply uniforms and other unspecified provisions.[5] The success of recently conducted “comprehensive training” where the field station operates was attributed to the army’s supply of fuel.[6]

The fact that all this was reported in the first place indicates how unusual it is, so this report does not indicate that the PLA’s capacity for joint logistics is high. In fact, the opposite conclusion is probably more accurate. Instead, what this report demonstrates is that units in the PLA are beginning to overcome what were once insurmountable barriers separating the services, and the PLA published this report to encourage units throughout the force to similarly work with units in other services. Such a cultural change will take time, but it seems to be underway.


Opinions, conclusions, and recommendations expressed or implied within are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the Air University, the Department of the Air Force, the Department of Defense, or any other U.S. government agency. Cleared for public release: distribution unlimited.


[1] See Derek Solen, “PLA Air Force Increases Flexibility of Combat Support Units,” China Brief 23, no. 23 (December 15, 2023), https://jamestown.org/program/pla-air-force-increases-flexibility-of-combat-support-units/.

[2] 程智英 [Cheng Zhiying] and 雷卓立 [Lei Zhuoli], “空军战机接受陆航油料补给” [Air force warplanes receive army aviation fuel supply], 解放军报 [Liberation Army News], February 17, 2024, accessed February 21, 2024, http://www.81.cn/szb_223187/szbxq/index.html?paperName=jfjb&paperDate=2024-02-17&paperNumber=01&articleid=925321.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.