Friday, May 24, 2013

PLA Orbat against India

Summary of PLA strength in Lanzhou and Chengdu Military Regions

This summary is based on Concise World Armies (CWA) prepared by Ravi Rikhye of Orbat.Com and this version is from 2011 edition of CWA. The Group Armies under each MR are same as revealed by the latest White Paper on PLA by Chinese Government; the subordinate units are from CWA.

These two MR have been compiled here because in case of a shooting match between India and China, the first set of troops is likely to come from these regions. While nothing prevents PLA from sending crack formations from other MR like Beijing, one assumes that formations from these MR are equipped and trained for fighting in the demanding Tibetan terrain.

Another reason to assess the force levels in these MR is to check their peace time deployment locations. Much has been written about Chinese infrastructure in Tibet and consequently, its ability to move formations quickly into conflict zone(s) in Tibet across LAC. My preliminary assessment is that while roads on our side are not too great, the distance from peace time locations to forward areas is much shorter for India. So, while better roads may well allow PLA to move formations quickly, India will have sufficient warning and we can actually beat the PLA in dash to border.

Here is the detail of formations under each MR facing India. 

Map with various MR AOR marked:

The location of these formations will be marked separately on map for reference.


The Lanzhou Military Region directs all military and armed police forces in Xinjiang, Quinqhai, Gansu, Ningxia, and Shaanxi. The Ali area of northwest Tibet also falls under this Region. It is bordered to the south by the Chengdu Military region, and to the north by Mongolia, the Altai Republic, which is a province of the Russian Federation and Kazakhstan.. The district has the Uygur, Kazak and Hui peoples, composed of Muslim minorities.

Military Districts

§  Ningxia MD
§  Shaanxi MD
§  Gansu MD
§  Qing-hai MD
§  Xinjiang MD
§  2nd Artillery Corps has major units in the MR, but under national command.

Direct Control Units

§  Tactical Missile Brigade (unconfirmed)
§  “Tiger of the Night” Special Operations Group - Qingtonexia, Ningxi
§  Electronic Warfare Regiment - Lanzhou, Gansu
§  Antiaircraft Artillery Brigade
§  Artillery Brigade - Qinghai
§  NBC Regiment
§  River crossing Regiment
§  Transportation Regiment
§  Logistic Support Troops
§  Reconnaissance Unit
§  Reserve Logistic Support Brigade

Xinjiang MD (Urumqi, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region)

§  11th Infantry Brigade (Urumqi)
§  4th Infantry Division (Kuqa)
§  6th Highland Mechanized Infantry Division (Kashi)
o   17th Mechanized Regiment (T92 IFV)
o   18th Mechanized Regiment (T92 IFV)
o   Armor Regiment (T96 MBT, T88B MBT, and T86 IFV)
o   311th Artillery Regiment (T2 SP 100mm)
o   Air Defense Regiment (T95 SPAD)
§  8th Mechanized Division (Qiaziwan, Shawan, Xinjiang)
§  1st Independent Motorized Regiment (Urumqi)
§  2nd Independent Motorized Regiment
§  2nd Artillery Brigade (Urumqi)
§  9th Engineer Regiment (Urumqi)
§  3rd Army Aviation Regiment (Urumqi, Changji, Xinjiang)
o   Mi-8
o   Mi-171, Mi-17-IV, Mi-17V-7, Mi-17V5,
o   S70C-2
o   Z9WA

§  Also:
o   7th PAP Division (Ili (also spelt Yli) City)
o   63rd PAP Division (ex 21st Army) (Pingliang City)

Shaannix MD

§  1 reserve AAA division
§  1 reserve infantry division
§  1 reserve infantry division

Gansu MD

§  1 reserve infantry division
§  1 reserve infantry division

Qingjai MD

§  21 GA (Shannxi) (RRU/offensive and defensive)(Baoji City, Shannxi Province)
o   12th Armored Division (Jinuquan, Gansu Province)
o   61st Highland Motorized Division (Tianshui City, Gansu Province)
§  19th Artillery Brigade
§  1 AD Brigade (Jinuquan, Gansu Province)
o   1Special Operations Group
o   1 Engineering Regiment
o   1 Pontoon Bridge Regiment
o   1 Communications Regiment
o   1 EW Regiment
o   1 Army Helicopter Unit
o   1 Logistic Support Troops
o   1 Reconnaissance Unit
o   1 Transportation Regiment
o   1 AT Regiment
o   1 EW Battalion

§  47th GA (Lintong, Shaanxi Province ) (Mobile Force, offensive and defensive)
o   55th Mechanized Infantry Brigade (Yaoxian)
o   56th Highland Brigade (Wuwei City)
o   139th Motorized Infantry Brigade (Weinan City)
o   1 Armor Brigade (Chengzhou, Shannxi)
o   1 AD Brigade (Pucheng, Shaanxi)
o   1 Artillery Brigade (Miaobaozhen, Tongchuan, Shaanxi)
o   1 Engineer Regiment
o   1 Communications Regiment
o   1 Logistic Support Troop
o   1 Reconnaissance Unit
o   1 Transportation Regiment
o   1 EW battalion


The Chengdu Military Region is a military administrative command located in the southwest of the People’s Republic of China, covering Chongqing, Sichuan, Yunnan, Guizhou, and the Xizang/Tibet Autonomous Region. It includes some of the area previously within the Kunming Military Region and has its headquarters in Chengdu. The region borders with Nepal, Burma (Myanmar), Laos, and Vietnam, thus making it responsible for a large segment of China’s sensitive frontier region. Internally, it is dedicated to maintaining the peace I the historically restive Xizang Autonomous Region which includes Tibet.

Direct Command Units
§  SF Units
§  1 reserve motorized division
§  1 SSM brigade
§  1 artillery brigade (motorized)
§  5 AAA battalions
§  2nd Army Aviation Regiment (Chengdu, Sichuan)
§  Mi-171, M-17-VS
§  S70C-2
§  Z9WA
§  Electronic warfare unit
§  Army Logistics Support Brigade
§  High Technology Unit (presumably a test/experimental unit)
§  Chemical Defense technical Group


§  38th Mobile Armed Police Division
§  41st Mobile Armed Police Division
§  22nd Logistics Sub-department
§  37th Logistics Sub-department
§  38th Logistics Sub-department

§  Chongquin Garrisons (equivalent to an MD)

o   1 reserve infantry division
o   1 reserve AAA division
o   1 reserve AAA regiment

§  Tibet (Xijiang) MD

o   Shannan Military Sub District
o   Nyingchi Military Sub District
o   Xigaze Military Sub District

§  HQ South West of Lhasa
Commander: Major-General
o   Unidentified tank regiment (T96G)
o   308th Independent Artillery Regiment
o   2nd Helicopter Regiment (elements)
o   52nd Mountain Brigade (Linzhi) (T92 wheeled APC; HJ-8/19 ATGM)
o   53rd Mountain Brigade (Milin)
o   54th Independent Mountain Regiment (Rapid Response)(Lhasa)
§  1st Battalion (truck)
§  2nd Battalion (truck)
§  3rd Battalion (T92 IFV)
§  4th Battalion (T89 APV)
§  1 heavy mortar (100mm) company
§  2 Air Defense companies (25mm)
o   1 Signals Regiment
o   1 Engineer Regiment
o   1 independent F-7 fighter regiment (Lhasa-Gonggar)

§  Railroads

o   Qinghai-Lhasa

§  11 trains per day capacity, each train 20 x 60-ton freight cars.

o   Lhasa-Gyantse-Shigatse

§  Construction began in September, 2010. Extensions planned to Naylam (opposite Nepal), and Dromo (opposite Sikkim/Bhutan). Extension proposed to Kathmandu, feasibility study underway but no announced plans to construct.

o   Lhasa-Nyangtri (Planning)

§  Nyangtri is southeast of Lhasa. A new airport has been constructed at Nyangtri that is capable of operating fighter aircraft and has ample expansion space for aircraft parking aprons.

§  Strategic Highways in Tibet

o   G 109, now hardtop, Lhasa-Beijing, 3855-km
o   G 214, now hardtop, Xining-Lhasa-Yunnan Province
o   G 219, Kashgar-Shigatse, (2342-km), primary Chinese lateral road opposite
o   India-Nepal. (Shigatse-Lhasa G 318.) It is likely the entire road is now two-lane hardtop, including the section through the Aksai China (Indian Ladakh, occupied by China
o   G 317, now hardtop, Lhasa-Chengdu (2043-km)
o   G 318, hardtop,Shanghai to Kathmandu (5591-km)
o   North-south highways have 2xx numbers, east-west have 3xx numbers. National highways carry the prefix G. All 1xx series highways lead to Beijing.

§  Reinforcements

o   61st Plateau RR Motorized Division (21st GA, Lanzhou MR; at Tianshui, Gansu)
o   149th Rapid Reaction Motorized Division (13th GA, Chengdu MR)
o   15th Airborne Corps has conducted a divisional-level drop in Tibet

§  Guizhou MD

o   1 reserve infantry division

§  Yannan MD

o   1reserve infantry division
o   1 reserve infantry division
o   1 independent Frontier Defense Regiment
o   1 border defense regiment

§  Sichuan MD
o   1 reserve infantry division (Chengdu)
o   1 reserve division (Leshan)

§  13 GA (Chongging) (offensive)
o   37th Motorized Division (Chongging)
o   149th Motorized Mountain Division (RDF) (Emei, Sichuan)
o   1 armor brigade (Pengzhou, Sichuan)
o   1 artillery brigade (Chongqing, Sichuan)
o   1 AD Brigade(Mianyang, Sichuan)
o   “Falcons of Southwest” Special Operations Group (Chengdu, Siachuan)
o   1 Signals Regiment
o   Other units

§  14 GA (Kunming, Yunnan) (offensive)

o   31st Infantry Division (Kaiyan, Yunnan) 40th Jungle Infantry Division (Regional RDF)
o   4th Artillery Brigade (Kunming, Yunnan)
o   1 armor brigade
o   1 AD Brigade (Kunming, Yunnan)
o   1 Engineering Regiment
o   1 Communication Regiment
o   1Reconnaissance Unit
o   1 Transportation Regiment
o   1EW battalion
o   1 NBC battalion
o   1 Engineer Bridge Regiment


  1. This is a good writeup so far Rohit. I am going to go ahead and do one for the PLAAF as well and we can exchange some notes. BTW, do you have the link for the whitepaper by the PLA you refer to above?


    1. Please explore the link given below:

      Also, I'll request you to cover three aspect about PLAAF:

      1. The role which the airbases are likely to play in any conflict and what advantages do they convey to China.
      2.The strength and weaknesses of PLAAF operating from these bases.
      3. What kind of firepower (squadrons/types/etc) are Chinese likely to throw at India and where do you think they'll come from.


    2. The biggest discrepancy between the PLA/PLAAF combine and the Indian side is in terms of the tactical BMs they can field. Even assuming that they lack enough to turn the tide of battle, these can be a huge challenge for any of our C3I setups such as command HQs. Here, the acquisition of the LRSAM may help, but to be honest, theres only so much it can do. Ultimately, we need huge number of Prahaar/Nirbhay type systems of our own. One for the TBA, the other for the more strategic targets in the hinterland.

      In terms of squadron/types, recently did a rough 1:1 compare between "our" fighters and theirs, and the good news is that with upgrades, and even regular inductions, we retain the edge. Their Flankers remain behind ours (tall talk of super Chinese Flankers remains that), and the J-10 fleet is still a rough peer of our upgraded Mirage & MiG-29 fleet. The former (Mirage 2000s) will be ahead in sensors, the MiG-29s, across the board.

      The rapid induction of the Su-30MKI fleet has made a significant difference. The bad news is that we still have fewer numbers of airframes and in terms of A2G contribution, we really need local sources of PGMs.

      Otherwise, the signal work done by the IAF may be in terms of interdicting supply lines and the like, deeper within - while holding off the PLAAF in the air. But we are faced with a Kargil type scenario, where the IAF does make a signal contribution, but the IA later cribs that it should have done more for the immediate battle itself.

      But, to significantly influence any battle in the TBA - which will definitely be in terrain where target discrimination and precise targeting may be a challenge, we need PGMS en masse, and they will have to be (literally) used like water. That means either mass procurement, or a ramp up of efforts to acquire them locally.

      Hopefully, the MMRCA deal will come with a huge associated weapons package which will at least help us in the interim.

      Reason I dwell so much on the weapons side of things, is because again, with fighting going on in valleys etc, and with the opfor having huge acess to AAA flak, VSHORADs all the way to long range SAM systems, attacking from a distance is the easiest way for IAF aircraft to crack the shell, at least to take out some of the defenders and then persevere.

  2. IIRC the Qingtongxia base is used extensively by all PLA SOF people.

    The SSG has been there led by one Major Zafar Niazi as part of the joint counter terrorism exercise Youyi-III.

    The PLA-SOF "Sky Wolf" component was led by Capt. Wang Qingxin. (

  3. Agree with your observation that PLA makes do with lower force levels on border. this is true even in eastern sector. in certain places full btns of IA are faced by a PLA coy, 2 at most.

    however they do have the advantage of better intra theater commn. one post can reinforce another due to roads linking them, something that is utterly lacking on our side.

    and they can (and do) execute a sudden surge at points of their choice where we do not have much of a reply.