Chinese Armed Forces ORBAT Part 8: JLSF, SSF, PAP, Military Factories and Badges

2. Strategic Support Force

PLA Strategic Support Force (PLASSF) was created in December 2015 as a part of China’s military organisational reform. It is a theatre level force and an independent service arm under control of CMC, but not a full service branch like PLARF. It is responsible for PLA’s electronic, space, psychological  and electronic warfare missions. The force is led by an officer of Lt General rank. One former PLA officer and professor at PLARF’s Equipment Research Laboratory stated that it is an independent military service, rather than a “military branch”. He stated that it has/will have 3 force types, cyber force of hackers focusing on attack and defence, EW force jamming and disrupting enemy radar & comms and space force focusing on recon and comm satellites.

Some of the tasks performed by older departments have been consolidated in to this branch. For example, space related tasks performed by General Supply Department (GSD) and General Armament Department (GAD) and now the responsibility of Space Systems Department (SSD). It is a bit curious to see that PLAAF and PLARF have not been entrusted with this responsibility. It may have been inspired by USA’s Rocket Force organisation, but it is just my personal speculation at this point. The whole process of reorganisation is still going on and things may become clearer in time.

One thing is quite obvious that the Chinese have not created new organisations from scratch  but reused the existing human resources and bureaucracy in new command structures. Current organisational structure seems to be on a “bases” structure. These bases existed before 2015 too and have been transferred to SSF with most of previous assets as it is. Their  MUCDs range from 32001 to 32099.


SSF Arm patch

 As of now, SSF seems to have following departments:

  1. Network Systems Department:  It is tasked with various aspects of information warfare which includes technical espionage, electronic intelligence  electronic warfare and psychological warfare. Its assets include signals intelligence bureaus, technical reconnaissance bases (perhaps in joint operations with theatre command) and research institutes. 

It has 3 sub-departments:

i. Technical Reconnaissance Bureau: It supposedly has 1st, 2nd and 3rd Bureau.

ii.ECM Bureau: It is responsible for electronic warfare missions with three departments, Air Defence ECM Brigade (Beidaihe), ECM Brigade (Langfang) and ECM Satellite Station (Beijing)

iii. Research Institutes:  There are 4 research institutes, 54th, 56th, 57th and 58th,

  1. Space Systems Department: It is responsible for all military space operations including surveillance, space warfare, telemetry, tracking & control. It also operates some tracking, telemetry and command stations overseas in Argentina, Pakistan and Namibia. SSD’s other assets include support ships such as Yuan Wang that track ICBM and satellite launches. 

SSD and NSD function under a common HQ of Staff Department and may have a few common assets. Apart from that, they work independently of each other for most part. Strategic intelligence gathering and space weaponry & recon may have some mission overlap due to their shared use of satellites. Keeping separate satellites for both departments which have the same larger  purpose will be quite a waste of resources.  

Organisational Structure

So far it seems that SSF has following organisational structure:

  • Four departments, namely Staff, Equipment, Political Work and Logistics.
  • Common command for NSD and SSD with some operational overlap.
  • NSD and SSD have their own administrative HQs & infrastructure for their respective specialised mission sets.
  • Under direct control of CMC.
Notional SSF Grade Structure

Space Centres

Most of Chinese commercial space related projects were under command of China Satellite Launch and Tracking General (CLTC). Presumably, all of its assets were transferred to SSD after reorganisation. In addition to bases listed below, China also operates a fleet of 6 Yuan Wang tracking ships.

Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre/Base 206360040°59’10.57″N100°12’56.60″EHuman flight
Taiyuan Satellite Launch Centre/Base 256371038°50’48.91″N111°36’34.20″ERemote sensing, meteorological & comms
Xichang Satellite Launch Centre/Base 276379028°14’44.14″N102° 1’48.59″EBroadcast, comms and meteorological
Wenchang Satellite Launch Centre19°36’54.73″N110°57’3.57″EBroadcast, comms and meteorological
Beijing Aerospace Flight Control CentreSatellite monitoring, telemetry & tracking
Xi’an Satellite Control Centre /Base 26 63750Training, satellite monitoring, telemetry & tracking
China Satellite Maritime Tracking and Control Department/ Base 23 63680Testing and Training Base
Satellite Communications Main Station61096
Satellite Positioning Main Station/Base 35
Aerospace Reconnaissance Bureau61646
Changchun tracking stationTracking station
Guiyang tracking stationTracking station
Khashi tracking stationTracking station
Minxi tracking stationTracking station
Nanning tracking stationTracking station
Weinan tracking stationTracking station
Xiamen tracking stationTracking station
Yilan tracking stationTracking station
Yuan Wang tracking ship6 tracking ships
Dongfeng Station
Jiamusi / Jia linhai Station
Lushan station
Nanhai Station
Qingdao Station
Tianshan station
Zhanyi Station

TABLE: Space Launch & Control Assets under SSD

Argentina – Neuquén StationTracking station
Australia – DongaraTracking station
Chile – Santiago StationTracking station
Kenya – Malindi StationTracking station
Kiribati – South Tarawa IslandTracking station
Namibia – SwakopmundTracking station
Pakistan – Karachi + Lahore StationsTracking station
Sweden – KirunaTracking station

TABLE: Chinese Overseas Tracking Stations

Aerospace Engineering UniversityPrimary education & training institution for space command, training and mgmt
China Astronauts GroupManaging Chinese astronauts
Beijing Institute of Tracking and Communication TechnologyR&D on space C4ISR
Aerodynamics Research and Development Centre63820Aerodynamics R&D
Aerospace Research Development Centre
Engineering Design Institute
China Nuclear Test Base/29th Base63650Nuclear science, radiation and directed energy weapons
TABLE: R&D and Training Institutions 

Yuan Wang tracking ship

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *