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New PLA Armor and Mech. Infantry Brigade Structures

by Ward Carroll on July 29, 2008

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The Soviet Operational Manoeuvre Group in 1986 was looking at creating a ‘Shock Division’ of three regiments, with each regiment containing two tank and two mechanised infantry battalions. Armoured divisions are too unwieldy in complex terrain and an armoured battle group (battalion sized) is easier to control and execute its mission.

The Peoples Liberation Army, following on from their experience with the Operational Manoeuvre Group, can now deploy the new mechanised infantry division and using modular forces have created a composite cavalry brigade for use in complex terrain.

Utilising the deep operation theory, they can employ am air mechanised and/or fast wheeled force as a ‘lance’ followed up by the mobile force (tank heavy) to exploit the breach in an enemys defences followed by a holding force (heavy mechanised), that is the dozer blade.

An article in the 1/2008 issue of Tanke Zhuangjia Cheliang (Tank and Armoured Vehicle) is titled ‘News From Overseas– Chinese Built Many Light Type Mechanised Units.’ The article was written to correct the mistakes that appear in non-Chinese media about the structure and equipment of these new light mechanised units.

The mechanised infantry brigade has four mechanised infantry battalions, one armoured battalion, one fire support battalion, one engineer battalion and one communication battalion. Each mechanised infantry battalion has three mechanised infantry companies, each of three platoons with each company having 13 infantry fighting vehicles; four in each platoon and one headquarters vehicle.

Each armoured brigade has four armoured battalions for a total of 132 main battle tanks, one mechanised infantry battalion, one artillery battalion with 18 self-propelled guns and one air defence battalion of 18 AAA guns. Each armoured battalion has three armoured companies, each of three platoons with each company having 11 main battle tanks; three in each platoon and two headquarters vehicles. A complete brigade contains 4,000 soldiers.

The 112th Mechanised Infantry Division, part of the 38th Army Group, uses the Model 99 main battle tank and the Model 86 infantry fighting vehicle. The 3rd and 116th Armoured Divisions, part of the 39th Army Group are to be equipped with 198 Model 99 main battle tanks each, meaning at present they will stay with the three tank platoon structure and two regiments.

The 54th Regiment, part of the 127th Mechanised Infantry Division uses the Model 96 main battle tank as do the independent 20th Tank Regiment and 58th Tank Brigade.

The 113th Mechanised Infantry Division of the 38th Army Group is equipped with both Type 92 and 92A wheeled infantry fighting vehicles. Other vehicles based on the chassis include command, anti-tank with the Hong Jia– 8 ATGW, the Yi-Tian self propelled SAM system and the wheeled 122mm self-propelled gun is close to approval.

Martin Andrew

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