Chinese media unveils details of US-inspired military logistics system
Chinese state media has released details of the country's military logistics supply networks and how they are operating under the concept of joint operations in a system analysts said was inspired by the US military's transport command. State-owned China Central Television's WeChat social media account on Monday published a report about the operations of the five logistic support centres of the People's Liberation Army five theatre commands in the Central, West, East, South and North.
It likened all five units to a "speedy courier", making their delivery service more professional and safe. Do you have questions about the biggest topics and trends from around the world?
Get the answers with SCMP Knowledge, our new platform of curated content with explainers, FAQs, analyses and infographics brought to you by our award-winning team. The report said all the logistic support centres had established a digital supplies storage system. "Digital calculation and professional packing could avoid 'non-battle casualties', because unsafe and delayed delivery could cause serious consequences in today's war," the report said.
A report in the military newspaper PLA Daily published on April 28 also called on troops to regard logistics as a "tough battle" that could affect troops' safety and said performance in this area could determine promotions and bonuses. Zhou Chenming, a researcher from the Yuan Wang military science and technology think tank, said the PLA's professional logistics management system had been inspired by the United States Transportation Command (Transcom), which was first used during the 1991 Gulf war. The Pentagon set up Transcom in 1987, one of the 11 unified combatant commands directly under the defence department.
The PLA saw how effective the system was four years later when the air force-led logistic command unit was able to mobilise 4,000 pilots from civilian airlines to support the invasion of Iraq, Zhou said.
"The Americans didn't only win the conventional fight in the Gulf war, but also showed supreme logistical long-distance delivery capability," he said. "At the same time in the ongoing Ukraine war, the Russian military's failure in logistic supplies delivered its bitter frustration in the battle."
The PLA set up its Joint Logistic Support Force in 2016, the replacement of the former General Logistics Department, which was scrapped along with other three headquarters in President Xi Jinping's military overhaul. Based in the country's transport and industrial hub Wuhan, each theatre command has its own supply centre connecting with highways and railways. Hong Kong-based military observer Liang Guoliang said the PLA had learned from both the Korean war and the 1979 conflict with Vietnam, with the PLA suffering severe casualties due to poor logistic support chains.
"Beijing has made tremendous investment to perfect its logistic supply system, while the ongoing Ukraine war has also provided the PLA a lot of points of reference," Liang said. The PLA in October of 2017, also signed contracts with five civilian logistic companies - SF Express, China Railway Express, China Post Express, Deppon Logistics and Jingdong Logistics.
Ni Lexiong, a professor at the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, said the PLA would still use troops to focus on weapons delivery, and let the civilian companies take care of items like clothes and medical supplies. "But the PLA's logistic support force is mainly focused on domestic transport, indicating there is still a huge gap to catch up to its American counterpart, which has grabbed global air supremacy," Ni said.
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