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August 12, 2009

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Huge PLA drill to test mobility

THE Chinese People's Liberation Army yesterday launched its biggest-ever tactical military exercise, involving the deployment of about 50,000 heavily armored troops over thousands of miles to test the PLA's long-distance mobility.

The PLA General Staff Headquarters, in charge of organizing the exercise, "Stride-2009," said one army division from each of the military commands in Shenyang, Lanzhou, Jinan and Guangzhou will participate in a series of live-fire drills lasting two months.

Unlike previous annual tactical exercises, the army divisions and their air units will be deployed by civilian rail and air transport to unfamiliar areas far from their garrison training bases.

The division from northeast China's Shenyang Military Command will be sent to the Lanzhou Military Command in the northwest. Troops from the Jinan Military Command in the east and the Guangzhou Military Command in the south will trade places.

All heavy weapon systems, such as tanks and infantry fighting vehicles, will be carried by rail, and lightly armored troops will go by China Railway high-speed trains traveling at up to 350 kilometers per hour.

The live-fire drills of the "Stride-2009" exercise will be conducted at four tactical training bases in the four military commands. The PLA will introduce a newly developed laser beam combat simulation system, and troops in each base will be divided into rival forces to carry out mock fights.

Chen Hu, executive chief editor of the World Military Affairs Magazine, said long-distance mobility is crucial for the PLA to deal with diversified threats and responsibilities in the future.

"The increasing attention to the improvement of the capability especially after the Wenchuan earthquake has become one of the PLA's priorities," Chen said.

After the 8-magnitude quake on May 12 last year, many PLA ground troops that headed for the epicenter were stranded outside the mountainous region in the Sichuan Province.

Air Force units could provide only limited support to relieve disaster-hit residents due to the lack of large helicopters and transports.


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