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China seeks high-tech soldiers for new weapons

CHINA'S armed forces are raising the qualification and training levels of non-commissioned officers to build a professional corps with the ability to operate increasingly sophisticated weaponry.

A reform plan unveiled yesterday by the Central Military Commission, China's top military authority, outlined the reforms which would affect the People's Liberation Army and the Armed Police force by the end of this year.

The number of NCOs in the PLA and Armed Police would rise to almost 900,000, while the total number of personnel would remain unchanged, said Yang Yangshen, an officer with the PLA's Headquarters of the General Staff.

He said the increase would be small, but did not give numbers.

New NCO posts would be offered to increase the strength of increasingly technology-intensive forces, Yang said.

College diplomas

The NCOs would be given more responsibility for equipment that needed better proficiency and information skills in addition to assisting commissioned officers with basic training, he said.

According to the plan, the PLA and Armed Police will recruit more graduates with three-year college diplomas, who can better understand the operation of modern military weapons systems, rather than promote enlisted personnel.

The PLA and Armed Police enlisted personnel are mainly high school graduates. The modernization of PLA weaponry called for better qualified NCOs, Yang said.

NCOs in the PLA and Armed Police are now ranked in six categories, starting from the lowest Level 1 up to Level 6.

According to the plan, the new ranks, from lowest to highest, will be corporal, sergeant, sergeant first class, master sergeant class four, master sergeant class three, master sergeant class two and master sergeant class one.

The reform also introduces a training system where the new NCOs need to acquire technical qualifications, such as weapons repair and equipment maintenance.


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