Chinese Armed Forces ORBAT Part 2: Composition Of Ground Forces

PLA has changed it’s command structure from Group Army, Division, Regiment to one comprising of  Group Army, Brigades and Battalions. Each of five Theater Commands has 2-3 Group Armies (total of 13) under its control which in turn have 4-6 CABs in combat and 4-7 brigades and independent battalions in supporting roles. Some of TCs like Western TC has a few independent divisions and Border Defence Regiments (BDR) under their command. More on this later.

Each GA now typically comprises of:

  • 6 Combined Arms Brigades 
  • Six Support Brigades and/or independent battalion
    • 1 Artillery
    • 1 Air Defense 
    • 1 Army aviation or Air Assault
    • Special Operations
    • Engineer
    • Service Support

CABs are classified as light (mountain or light mechanised) or heavy (mechanised infantry or armoured). There are 4 types of CABs, namely HEAVY, MEDIUM, LIGHT & AMPHIBIOUS and most GAs have 2 or more types of CABs plus support units. Additionally, there are following specialised brigades:

  • Army Aviation Brigades (AAB): 15. Each GA and Xinjiang and Tibet MDs are assigned an AAB. Personnel and aircraft from 7 brigades, 5 regiments and some new equipment were used for their creation.
  • Special Operations Forces Brigades (SOFB) : 16.  Created from existing 9 SOFBs, 2 regiments and new personnel.
  • Support Brigades: 87 Includes all types of Engineering, Service Support, Air Defence and similar units.
  • Marine Brigades: 6. One motorised infantry brigade in Shandong, coastal defense units in Fujian, Shandong were consolidated into 4 new marine brigades. South Sea Fleet under Southern TC already had two MBs. Now Northern and Eastern TCs have two new MBs each.

COMPOSITIONS OF COMBINED ARMS BRIGADES

1. Composition of Heavy Combined Arms Brigade : – 

Each such brigade has 5000-6000 soldiers and 112 tanks in 8/9 battalions 

  • 4 Combined Arms Battalions each with 2 tank companies, 2 mechanised infantry companies, 1 artillery company 
  • 1 Artillery Battalion  
  • 1 Air Defense Battalion
  • 1 Combat Support Battalion 
  • 1 Logistic Support Battalion
  • 1 Reconnaissance Battalion
  • 1 Guard & Service Company

Each battalion has 2 tank companies

Each tank company has 14 tanks in 3 platoons of 4 tanks each plus 2 tanks for command and control. ??

2. Composition of Light Combined Arms Brigade 

  • 3 Motorised Light Infantry Battalions (Dongfeng EQ-2102 & MV-3 trucks)
  • 1 High Mobility Infantry Battalion (Warrior KSK 4×4 armoured utility vehicle, Humvee copy)
  • 1 Artillery Battalion  
  • 1 Air Defense Battalion
  • 1 Combat Support Battalion 
  • 1 Logistic Support Battalion??
  • 1 Reconnaissance Battalion
  • 1 Guard & Service Company

3. Composition of Mechanised Infantry Combined Arms Brigade

  • 4 Mechanised Battalions
  • 2 Tank Battalion (35-40 Type-99 tanks each)
    • 11 tanks each in 3 tank companies + 2 Command tanks in battalion HQ
  • 1 Artillery Battalion (18 122mm PLZ-07B SPG)
  • 1 Engineer Battalion
  • 1 Signals Battalion  
  • 1 Air Defense Battalion
  • 1 Logistic Support Battalion??

4. Composition of Independent Artillery Brigade

  • 2 Battalions (36 units) truck mounted PCL-181 155/52mm howitzers.  
  • 2 Battalion 36 units) PHL-03 300mm MLRS

5. Composition of Independent Air Defence Brigade

  • 1 Battalion (24 units) 35mm towed AA
  • 12 FM-90 SAMs

Combined Arms Battalion Structure 

After discarding Soviet system of command in which regimental HQs did most of planning and staff work for battalions. PLA has now eliminated regiments from the chain of command.  Battalions will now be capable of planning and executing operations independently. Battalion Commander directly commands a deputy battalion commander, master sergeant, chief of staff and four non-commissioned officers. There is a Political Commissar (PC) who can lead the combat operations if needed, but his main functions include political indoctrination, moral and adherence to party directives. 

 PLA’s Combined Arms Battalion Structure for Light Infantry

IMAGE 4: PLA’s Combined Arms Battalion Structure for Light Infantry

Each CA Mechanised Infantry Battalion has following structure:

  1. 3 Rifle Companies with 120 troops each form the maneuver component.
  2. Company is led by a Company Commander, Political Commissar and respective deputies. Battalion HQ may have a battalion commander’s vehicle and artillery command vehicle.
  3. Each company has 3 rifle platoons, 1 firepower platoon and 30 ICVs for troop transport and fire support.. 
  4. Platoon has 30 troops in 3 squads including platoon leader, radio operator.
  5. Each 9 man squad consists of a NCO squad leader and 8 troops/conscripts.
  6. Other staff includes Company chief NCO, supply clerk, two radio operators, armourer. Operations and Reconnaissance Officer, Artillery and engineering officer, Communications officer and Support Officer.
  7. Firepower platoon usually has 60mm mortars in 2 squads of 3 troops each.
  8. A firepower company with Battalion HQ may have 82mm SP mortars, sniper squad (sometimes equipped with 12.7mm anti-materiel rifles) and ATGMs
  9. Service Support Company take care of reconnaissance, UAV coverage, transportation, engineering, supplies and medical support.

CA Armoured Battalion has following structure 

  1. 20 tanks in two tank companies with 10 tanks each.??
  2. 2 Rifle companies with 120 troops each.
  3. 1 Battalion HQ company

Composition of Infantry Squads

Each platoon has 3 squads. Each squad forms two fire teams of varying fire power depending upon composition and loadout.

Heavy Infantry CAB Squads

VEHICLES: ZBD-4A or Type-86 ICV

SQUAD : 9 (2 vehicle crew, rest dismounts)

  1. 1 Sergeant or Staff Sergeant:QBZ-95 rifle. Can be vehicle commander and may not always dismount.
  2. 1 2nd IC: QBZ-95 rifle. May have QLG-10 Grenade launcher or QBS-9 shotgun.
  3. 2 Light Machine Gunners: QBB-95. Part of two fireteams
  4. 1 Designated Marksman: QBU-88 (Equivalent to Dragunov).
  5. 2 Riflemen: QBZ-95
  6. Driver & Gunner: QSZ-92 pistol or QBZ-95 carbine

Medium Infantry CAB Squads

VEHICLES:ZBL-8 (8 wheeled) ICVs & supporting vehicles

SQUAD : 9 (2 vehicle crew , rest dismounts)

  1. 1 Sergeant or Staff Sergeant:QBZ-95 rifle. Can be vehicle commander and may not always dismount.
  2. 1 2nd IC: QBZ-95 rifle. May have QLG-10 Grenade launcher or QBS-9 shotgun.
  3. 1 Light Machine Gunner: QBB-95. 
  4. 1 Designated Marksman: QBU-88 (Equivalent to Dragunov).
  5. 1 Rocket Gunner: PF-98A rocket. 1 Riflemen in support role, may carry 2 rocket rounds.
  6. 2 Riflemen: QBZ-95
  7. Driver & Gunner: QSZ-92 pistol or QBZ-95 carbine

Army’s Marine Infantry CAB Squads

Heavy CAB with amphibious capabilities.. 

VEHICLES: ZBD-5 Amphibious ICV

SQUAD : 9 (2 vehicle crew , rest dismounts)

  1. 1 Sergeant or Staff Sergeant:QBZ-95 rifle. Can be vehicle commander and may not always dismount.
  2. 1 2nd IC: QBZ-95 rifle. May have QLG-10 Grenade launcher or QBS-9 shotgun.
  3. 2 Light Machine Gunners: QBB-95. Part of two fireteams

OR 1 Light Machine Gunner: QBB-95 and 1 Rocket Gunner: PF-98A rocket or QLZ-87 Automatic Grenade Launcher. 1 Riflemen in support role, may carry 2 rocket rounds.

  1. 1 Designated Marksman: QBU-88 (Equivalent to Dragunov).
  2. 2 Riflemen: QBZ-95
  3. Driver & Gunner: QSZ-92 pistol or QBZ-95 carbine

Light Infantry CAB Squads

High mobility, quick response units

VEHICLES: 3.5 ton trucks, 4×4 vehicles

SQUAD : 9 (1 driver who may or may not operate a mounted weapon)

  1. 1 Sergeant or Staff Sergeant:QBZ-95 rifle. Can be vehicle commander and may not always dismount.
  2. 1 2nd IC: QBZ-95 rifle. May have QLG-10 Grenade launcher or QBS-9 shotgun.
  3. 1 Light Machine Gunner: QBB-95. 
  4. 1 Designated Marksman: QBU-88 (Equivalent to Dragunov).
  5. 1 Rocket Gunner: PF-98A rocket. 1 Rifleman in support role, may carry 2 rocket rounds.
  6. 3 Riflemen: QBZ-95
  7. Driver: QSZ-92 pistol or QBZ-95 carbine

Navy’s Marine Infantry CAB Squads

VEHICLES: Lynx 8×8 ATV and MI-17 helicopters

SQUAD : 9

  1. 1 Sergeant or Staff Sergeant:QBZ-95 rifle. Can be vehicle commander and may not always dismount.
  2. 1 2nd IC: QBZ-95 rifle. May have QLG-10 Grenade launcher or QBS-9 shotgun.
  3. 1 Light Machine Gunner: QBB-95. 
  4. 1 Designated Marksman: QBU-88 (Equivalent to Dragunov).
  5. 1 Rocket Gunner: PF-98A rocket. 1 Rifleman in support role, may carry 2 rocket rounds.
  6. 4 Riflemen: QBZ-95
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