Shaking the Heavens and Splitting the Earth

Chinese Air Force Employment Concepts in the 21st Century

by Roger Cliff, John F. Fei, Jeff Hagen, Elizabeth Hague, Eric Heginbotham, John Stillion

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Abstract

Less than a decade ago, China's air force was an antiquated service equipped almost exclusively with weapons based on 1950s-era Soviet designs and operated by personnel with questionable training according to outdated employment concepts. Today, the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) appears to be on its way to becoming a modern, highly capable air force for the 21st century. This monograph analyzes publications of the Chinese military, previously published Western analyses of China's air force, and information available in published sources about current and future capabilities of the PLAAF. It describes the concepts for employing forces that the PLAAF is likely to implement in the future, analyzes how those concepts might be realized in a conflict over Taiwan, assesses the implications of China implementing these concepts, and provides recommendations about actions that should be taken in response.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    The Organization of China's Air and Missile Forces

  • Chapter Three

    The Evolution of Chinese Air Force Doctrine

  • Chapter Four

    Chinese Concepts for the Employment of Air Forces

  • Chapter Five

    Air Offensive Campaigns

  • Chapter Six

    Air Defense Campaigns

  • Chapter Seven

    Air Blockade Campaigns

  • Chapter Eight

    Airborne Campaigns

  • Chapter Nine

    The Role of Other Services in Air Force Campaigns

  • Chapter Ten

    Possible PLAAF Operational Concepts, Capabilities, and Tactics in a Taiwan Strait Conflict

  • Chapter Eleven

    Conclusions and Implications

The research described in this report was sponsored by the United States Air Force and conducted by RAND Project AIR FORCE.

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