Services Reforms

Military Services Changes:

The Services of the Chinese armed forces, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), consist of:

  • PLA Army (陆军, PLAA)
  • PLA Navy (海军, PLAN)
  • PLA Air Force (空军, PLAAF)
  • PLA Rocket Force (火箭军, PLARF)
  • PLA Strategic Support Forces (战支部队, PLASSF)

中国人民解放军陆军   Responsible for army-building of ground force units of the PLA.

中国人民解放军海军   Responsible for army-building of naval or maritime force units of the PLA

Note: the marines of the PLA are a branch of the PLAN, not an independent service or semi-independent force like they may be in other militaries.

中国人民解放军空军   Responsible for army-building of air force units of the PLA.

中国人民解放军火箭军   Responsible for army-building of rocket force units of the PLA. Note, while in PLA parlance, the PLARF is a service, the headquarters is likely to also serve as a strategic nuclear functional combatant command at the same time, much as the PLASAC did before it.

Note: Official news releases at the time of establishing the PLA Rocket Force explained: The CPLA Rocket Force (PLARF), formally established on December 31st, 2015, is formed primary from the former Second Artillery Corps (第二炮兵, PLASAC) combined with the strategic nuclear strike forces of the other services; it is the strategic buttress of China’s great-nation status; it is an important cornerstone to safeguard national security.

中国人民解放军战略支援部队   Responsible for army-building of specialized strategic units of the PLA.

Note: The PLASSF stands out from the other services of the PLA in several ways.  First, it is apparently a grouping of functions that were formerly spread across several general departments or services, so is the only force and headquarters being formed entirely from scratch.  It is also named to indicate its different nature.  Using “部队” instead of “军” may suggest more that this is a collection of disparate units, more than a single unified force, like the traditional forces of Army, Navy and Air Force.

Note: while the PLASSF is often listed with the other services, the structure and employment of this force organization remains largely unknown.  It is possible that the PLASSF headquarters could serve as a sort of strategic functional command, commanding strategic supporting operations of space, cyber or other strategic supporting assets, much as the PLA Second Artillery Corps (PLASAC) used to directly command nuclear forces, even if those PLASAC forces were stationed within area of a military region.  But, its structure and employment of these units remains largely unknown.

Note: Official PLA spokesman at the time of establishing the PLASSF have been very circumspect in their explanations of what constitutes Strategic Support Forces. PLA commentator Yin Zhuo (尹卓) explained: The primary historic mission (使命任务) of the Strategic Support Forces is to support battlefield operations (支援战场作战) [by] giving our forces local superiority (局部优势) in the battlefield areas of space navigation (航天), outer space (太空), network (网络) and electromagnetic space (电磁空间) and ensure (保证) the smooth execution (顺利进行) of operations (作战的).  Others speculate the SSF will be responsible for the space, cyber, and strategic reconnaissance missions (including control of satellites and strategic unmanned aerial vehicles).