People's Liberation Army Special Operations Forces
|Special Operations Force|
PLA Special Operations Forces ensign
|Active||1988 - Present|
|Country||People's Republic of China|
|Branch||People's Liberation Army Ground Force|
(Land-, air- and sea-deployable)
Analysts believe current size is 7,000 ~ 14,000 troops
The People's Liberation Army Special Operations Forces (simplified Chinese: 中国特种部队; traditional Chinese: 中國特種部隊; pinyin: Zhōngguó tèzhǒng bùduì) is the special forces branch of the Chinese People's Liberation Army Ground Force. It specialises in rapid reaction combat in a limited regional war under high-tech conditions, commando operations, counter-terrorism, and intelligence gathering. Although the size of the Special Operations Forces is classified, it is estimated to number 7,000 ~ 14,000 troops.
The PLA first became interested in modern special warfare in the mid-1980s when it was shifting from the "people's war" to "fighting a local war under hi-tech conditions." The PLA planners believed that the next war would be a short, fast-pace conflict on the periphery rather than a total war on Chinese territories, and conventional infantry-orientated ground forces in their mass numbers could no longer meet the requirements.
On 23 December 2008, their first publicly known mission was to accompany three Chinese warships in protecting and escorting commercial ships against the Somali pirates, in cooperation with other nations as part of a UN mandate.
Special Operations Forces Units
- Beijing Military Region-"Oriental Sword" belongs to the Beijing Military Region. All 3000 soldiers in the force complete all types of operations and are regarded as the royal arm of the country.
- Guangzhou Military Region Special Forces Unit - "South Blade" or "South China Sword" established in 1988 as the PLA’s first special reconnaissance group, and was later expanded in 2000 to become the first PLA special operations unit to be capable of air-, sea-, and land-operations similar to the U.S. Navy SEALs. Basic training for this unit include cross-country running, climbing, swimming and shooting, though soldiers must also be familiar with operating 15 advanced technologies including GPS navigation, night vision, and photo reconnaissance.
- Chengdu Military Region Special Forces Unit – “Falcon”. Established in 1992, this unit is specialised in target locating and indicating, airborne insertion, sabotage and offensive strike, and emergency evacuation. The unit was also used by Chengdu MR to experiment with various new concept equipments and tactics, including the digitised army soldier system and high-mobility land weapon platforms.
- Beijing Military Region Special Forces Unit - "Arrow". Established in the early 1990s, this unit is equipped with various “high-tech” equipment including unmanned aerial reconnaissance vehicle (UARV), individual explosion devices and handheld laser dazzling weapons. Every soldier from this unit must be able to run five kilometers bearing heavy equipment in under 25 minutes, complete a 400-meter obstacle course in under one minute and 45 seconds, throw several hundred grenades over at least 50 meters each time, and perform 100 push-ups in a minute.
- Shenyang Military Region Special Forces Unit - "Siberian Tiger" is capable of completing missions on the ground and in the air and water, as well as surviving in the wilderness alone or in small groups. The unit is said to place special focus on survival skills, often breaking protocols by increasing this training in this area by an additional two-thirds, forcing soldiers to spend three to four months in difficult environments such as forests, mountains, deserts and grasslands with no man-made shelter or food. Soldiers in the squad are trained across multiple transport vehicles for roads, railroads, waterways and in the air, and have reportedly completed parachute landings more than 5,000 times and logged scuba diving trainings at more than 1,000 hours.
- Nanjing Military Region Special Forces Unit - Nickname “Flying Dragon” is the special land force of east China's Nanjing Military Region.
- Nanjing Military Region Special Forces Unit - “Oscar”
- Lanzhou Military Region Special Forces Unit - "Night Tiger" has a long and illustrious history with its origins dating back to World War II. It is home of China's first counter-terrorism unit, established in 2000.
- Jinan Military Region Special Forces Unit - "Eagle" Soldiers are said to focus on upper body strength training to enhance cardiovascular endurance, including being able to run at least 3,300 meters in under 12 minutes. They also reportedly engage in hand-to-hand combat training as well as the traditional Chinese health and martial arts practice of qigong. Soldiers of the Eagle special force can complete sea-air-land operations also similar to the U.S. Navy SEALs
- Hong Kong Special Duties Unit - "5 minute Response Unit"
- Macau Quick Reaction Platoon
- Leishen (Thundergod) Commando Airborne Forces is a crack special force for reconnaissance operations of the PLA's airborne troops, which is capable of performing the tasks of strategic deterrence, combat assault, task operations under IT-based conditions. They recently attended the "Golden Owl-2015" International Competition of Special Forces held in Kazakhstan, and won first place among participating teams of foreign countries. They also attended the Russia International Army Games in 2015 where they took first place in the "Airborne Platoon" competition. Ten teams from Kazakhstan, Belarus, China, Russia, Indonesia, Singapore and the U.S. attended the competition.
- PLA Navy's commando team “Sea Dragon” soldiers are equipped with black uniforms, this unit's first publicly known mission was to accompany three Chinese warships in protecting and escorting commercial ships against Somali pirates in December 2008, in cooperation with other nations as part of a UN mandate. Since then, the unit has participated in anti-piracy missions in the Gulf of Eden for over 300 days.
- Leopard is the name given to the crack troops of the Southwest China Falcon special force.
- 2009 international military competitions in Slovakia - 8 first places, 6 second places in 13 individual competition events.
- Third place in the 2010 Sniper World Cup and first place in the 2011 Sniper World Cup.
- Best overall performance at the fifth and sixth Warrior Competition organised by the Jordan Armed Forces at the King Abdullah II Special Operations Training Centre.
- Chinese Special Forces took 1st place at the 2013 5th International Warrior Competition organized by the Jordan Armed Forces at the King Abdullah II Special Operations Training Centre.
- Chinese Special Forces took 1st, 2nd, and 4th place at 2014 'Olympics' For Elite Warriors This event had 33 teams representing 19 nations from around the globe. This included two United States Marine Corps teams from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, Fleet Marine Force.
- Chinese Thor (Leishen) Commando Airborne troops attended the "Golden Owl-2015" International Competition of Special Forces held in Kazakhstan, and won first place among participating teams of foreign countries. Ten teams from Kazakhstan, Belarus, China, Russia, Indonesia, Singapore and the U.S. attended the competition. Focusing on the contest of comprehensive combat skills, the Golden Owl competition is famous for its big risk and cruelty, which makes the Golden Owl among the high-level competitions of the world special forces. They also attended the Russia International Army Games in 2015 where they took first place in the "Airborne Platoon" competition. The Chinese airborne troops performed excellently in the five-kilometer accelerated march, overcoming obstacles and shooting with small arms on that day. The Chinese team left the Russian team far behind in the contest of shooting with small arms after seven out of the nine 40mm rocket shells launched by the Russian participants missed the targets. Plus its parachuting score on August 3, the Chinese team won the first place with a total score of 1 hour 18 minutes and 17 seconds, which was 17 minutes 15 seconds ahead of the Russian team that ranked the second. The performance of the Chinese team on August 4 was appreciated by its rivals. The deputy leader of the Byelorussian team commented that the outstanding performance of the Chinese paratroopers showed "they are fully prepared and well trained."
-  Archived December 25, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
- "Chinese NCO flaunts might in international military competition". Eng.chinamil.com.cn. 2010-02-23. Retrieved 2012-02-03.
- "China dominates Military and Police Sniper World Cup". Chinadaily.com.cn. 2011-05-31. Retrieved 2012-02-03.
- Jeffrey Lin and P.W. Singer,Popular Science,Eastern Arsenal