Friday, January 4, 2019

China Training Hard

ComNavOps follows Chinese military matters fairly closely.  Know your enemy, right?  My impression is that the Chinese are training hard … harder than we are.  

Admittedly, I may be seeing carefully staged, propaganda type photos and descriptions that don't really reflect the state of Chinese training.  To mitigate that, I 'validate' the sources I use to the extent I can.  If a source has a history of posting verifiably accurate information about other matters then I assume that the training-specific posts are also accurate.  Still, one can never be entirely sure.

With that in mind, my impression is that the Chinese are training hard and more realistically than we are and by a wide margin.  Here's what I mean …

Photos of US training exercises show little use of smoke, obstacles, 'enemy' forces, or general confusion.  They also show no evidence of stress or realism.  For example, personnel are typically seen standing bolt upright rather than under cover and standing exposed in hatches of vehicles rather than buttoned up.  Amphibious assaults show personnel on beaches directing nice, neat, orderly lines of AAVs - is that really how an assault will occur?  Disembarking/dismounting personnel are shown walking off rather than crouched and sprinting as if their lives were at stake.  Examine these photos of US training exercises and ask yourself how realistic they seem and how representative you think they are of actual combat?

In contrast, take a look at these photos of Chinese training exercises (1).  Note the much greater degree of realism.  Note the smoke everywhere.  Note the night training.  Note the postures of the personnel.  Note the degree of live or semi-live firing.  Note the opportunity for confusion and noise.

I also admit that I'm cherry picking the photos, to an extent, to support the premise.  Certainly, there are US exercise photos that show smoke being used and personnel running but the point is that I had no trouble finding the types of photos I selected for the US and more realistic ones are much harder to find - that's telling.  I also had no trouble finding the Chinese photos - in fact, it was hard to find any that weren't realistic.

Relax a little.  I'm not proving or disproving anything in this post with just a handful of photos.  I'm merely stating that my general impression is that the Chinese are training harder and more realistically than we are.  If my impression is correct, this should concern us greatly.

It's also troubling that I can find any photos of Us personnel in mid-exercise without smoke, confusion, explosions, crouching/covering, etc.  If I can, then that exercise time was unrealistic and wasted.

By the way, my conversations with serving personnel confirm and, indeed, help form my impressions.

Consider this post is food for thought rather than a proof of anything.


(1)All photos from China Defense Blog,


  1. Noticed the same thing. Also I wonder about their tempo, haven't paid too much attention to dates but it seems like they have quite a few of them quite often. They would appear at first glance to be gearing for fast tempo, multiple landings,etc...maybe instead on 1 big landing a la USMC, planning more for multiple locations and date/times. Wonder if this approach is what China has game planned when they invade Taiwan, instead of 1 big landing, go for small multiple landings?

    1. However it my understanding good landing points are fairly constrained in Taiwan and most of those a re heavily protected. Scattering you landing force is not likely going to work unless China achieves god like levels of surprise.

    2. If China builds a decent number of their Y-20 transports, that gives Taiwan even more to worry about.

    3. " gearing for fast tempo, multiple landings,etc...maybe instead on 1 big landing"

      China's goals are conquest of their region which means Vietnam, Philippines, etc. Knowing that, you can see the need for many smaller landings. None of those countries have a military that can offer serious opposition.

      The "one big landing" applies only in the context of war with the US and China currently believes that the US will not go to war. To be fair, our past actions certainly reinforce that belief. The question is whether China will miscalculate the US' ultimate determination and commitment as Japan did or whether they will back down when eventually confronted. At the moment, I believe that China is misreading the US, as others have done, and takes our appeasement as weakness (which, in a sense, it is).

  2. I'm not so sure. China is certainly able to look better given its political system. Be it at covering up faults and showing whatever image they want. I rather sure the inspector General of procurement for the PLAN or the its version of the GAO are going to offer scathing reports about any of their new ship that the public can read.

    A pretty good review of China training and experience and also a different take on the prospects for invading Taiwan.

    Also interesting China is not immune to a General Turgetson moment "I wish we had one of those too..."
    Building a variant of the defunct XM-29 Objective Individual Combat Weapon.

    Theirs is simpler in many ways but I wonder if it any more useful the US version failed in test and even the follow up XM-25 Punisher kinda fizzled. I can't find anything that counters the knock on the US original outside of Chinese PR that 20mm grenade was just too small.

    Here for the defects of the system

    Its nice to see the Chinese can be seduced by techno babble as well as the Pentagon.

    The Forever GWOT has had a lot of negative impacts on the US military and its buying habits. It has however focused the US army and USMC to revisit solid durable weapons for infantry and not battery powered techno toys. Return of the Carl Gustaf, M320 grenade launcher and I would say also the USMC decision on the M27 Rifle.

    I'm drifting far from Navy Matters but the ZH-05 is a good example that not everything China makes should be assumed to be a credible gain in ability. The small 20mm round effectiveness is reduced even further by the electrons needed for the advanced rounds. Its notable that the US after flirting with the same systems at 20/25mm went back 40mm and a new guided round that is oversized vs standard so as not to loose warhead size.

    Is CHina's stealth plane any good who knows, but me-too-ism could be driving decisions over effective equipment buys.

    1. @Kath: Some perspective needs to be kept in mind for the XM25. It's all about tradeoffs. The flat trajectory vs the parabolic arc of the M203/M320 means that it's easier to make more accurate shots at range vs the 40mm UBGL. Yes, it's true that smart 25mm airburst grenades have less lethality and wounding radius vs dumb 40mm HEDP grenades, but the tradeoff is being able to put rounds closer to the enemy, and being able to fire more rounds. A standard squad grenadier's kit is an M4A1, M203, and 7 grenades; with the XM25, you're talking about carrying something like 30 grenades. It's an alternative weapon for a squad grenadier: there are instances where the niche the XM25 brings would have been useful. It would have been another tool in the toolbox.

      Further, the US abandonment of 25mm grenades is more due to H&K pulling out of its partnership with Orbital ATK and refusing to hand over its work on the Xm25 because it claimed the weapon is in violation of German law. If that hadn't happened, you might see more work on 25mm grenades within the US Army...

    2. "M203" - Minor nitpick, the M320 has replaced the M203 although I don't know if the replacement is complete yet.

      "7 grenades" - I'm not a ground combat person so I don't know about this, for sure, but at a quick glance, the load appears to be around 36. It just wouldn't make sense to take on the weight of the M203/M320 for only 7 grenades. Do you have a reference for this?

    3. I've never seen anyone carry more then 4 rounds, ready-for-use, for the M203/M320. 36 rounds shared-carried by the squad might be proper doctrine, it isn't a realistic practice.

    4. Is 4 rds worth the weight of the launcher?

    5. No, its a mentality of "rather-have-it-and-not-need-it..." similar to how everyone gets ACOGs and M68s.

      I "grew" up in the mechanized world, the use of the M203/320 in mechanized units, has always puzzled me seeing as we have vehicles that carry larger, and far more useful weapons. While we could store more ammo in the vehicle for it (203/320), there was no need.

      Light units probably could make more use it, since they lack heavy weapons, but the shells weigh .5lbs each. 36 spare rounds "only" weighs 18lbs spread over 12 guys... but how is that 36 rounds being carried or stored? Inside Ruck sacks preventing immediate use. Only the grenadier might put the necessary pouch's to carry it on his vest or on a drop leg rig.

      I've never seen a unit bother to conduct squad movements with training centered around their grenadier... Our doctrine calls for more emphasis on the machine guns as the focal point of a squad.

    6. @ComNavOps: It's from an Army briefing powerpoint on infantry combat loads. Squad grenadier carries 7 grenades because he's also carrying at least 6-8 mags of ammo for his rifle at the same time. With the XM25, he's carrying only 25mm grenades, so he can carry six 5-round mags of 25mm for 30 grenades.

      Basically with the XM25, you got smaller grenades, but more of them, with the tradeoff being that if the squad grenadier ran out of grenades that was it; the rifle/UBGL combo means if the squad grenadier is out of grenades, he can still be a rifleman. Tradeoffs. The Airborne apparently loved it in Afghanistan though. there's something to be said for being able to grenade every sandbagged bunker you see, instead of waiting on artillery or Apache.

    7. Not all units/etc in the US military liked the XM25. My bro in law's unit had some in Afghanistan (25th ID/3rd Brig Combat team), and the ones they had by his account were tempermental and not all that well regarded.

      I never used them or saw one personally, but my company's armorer when I worked in the mid east with Triple Canopy came from CAD/JSOC and was an armorer there before retiring, and he didn't have much good to say about it either. Just the opinion of two guys I talked to about the XM25, plus when I worked for Sig Sauer I knew a lot of HK/FN/etc employees based in the USA, and never heard much uproar one way or the other about it either.

      I too like the concept of the XM25, however I don't think it worked all that superbly in the field, at least not enough to be made standard equipment. HK pulling our/whatever or not, I've never seen a company in the industry walk away from a product if the customers like it...

    8. U.S. troops in Korean war generally rated the Chinese infantry as tough, well trained, and disciplined.

      Things can change, but I have more confidence in the Chinese youth than generation "X"


  3. It's TRUE that China is throwing a lot of stuff on the wall to see what sticks but what is USN doing? Doubling down on LCS/new frigate LCS and ordering 2 new Ford carriers when the first one still doesn't work properly?

    1. I don't think and LCS based FF is likely. That LCS is just not dead is a real issue It should be cancelled it lacks even the wan hope of the Zumwalts as test bed ships for powered systems.

    2. I think an LCS frigate is an absolute certainty. The Navy already went through this "selection" process once before and picked the LCS as the best "frigate". Why would this be different.

      Further, if you read the frigate program requirements, they're almost custom written to ensure that the LCS is selected.

      I hope I'm wrong but my official prediction (I haven't been wrong about any prediction yet) is the LCS is selected as the new frigate. We'll see.

  4. I'm more sanguine. The LCS is simply not a good basis for the small Burke the USN wants. With the NSC platform in the mix there is another home grown option that is clearly a better ship.

    Although what the USN really needs is purpose built mine warfare ships and really a bunch of task specific covettes based on maybe the Sentinel class (smallish) or any good NATO one. If the the BroNhas (and company) are so dangerous distribute lethality with a distribution of not Billion dollar ships under the Aegis wings a Burkes

    1. " The LCS is simply not a good basis for the small Burke the USN wants."

      Of course not! If you're trying to convince me of that, you needn't bother. I already know that. The LCS is the worst alternative in the frigate competition. However, it is the runaway favorite of the Navy. As I said, they already selected it once before in the "frigate" evaluation process and I see no reason why they'll change their minds. To repeat, the frigate requirements were almost tailor written for the LCS. Someday, I would love to write a post about how wrong I am about this … but I don't think I will be. We'll see.

    2. I completely appreciate your point. I agree an LCS variant was going to be the slam dunk Frigate. But I really think the fact they cannot now sail now, the fact of the utter non existence of the mission elements, the fact when they did float they broke, The drum beat of abysmal reports from every side in every US government agency that has examined them. Taken altogether suggests the USN can't really pick them. I hope I pray... I just don't think there are a sufficient number of stupid people in Congress to green light a desperately needed FF based on a failed ship.

      If I'm wrong and you are ever in Blackfoot ID while I'm still stuck here I'll by you a beer... But I really do feel after essentially two fails in the Zumwalt and the LCS I have to think the navy will go with an effective ship.

  5. Even if China training for landings for Tawain might not apply (I disagree), amphibious landings for Africa would still apply. Africa is becoming the next battle ground between China and USA.

    1. Economically and diplomatically, Africa is already a major battleground. When it comes to an actual shooting conflict, China simply can't compete in the region. Sure, it is developing the port infrastructure today to be able to refuel a blue water task group and sail it there tomorrow, but they can't put together a credible blue water task group in the first place yet.

      Surface groups require air cover; either from 3-4 carriers, or from ground based fighters. Optimistically, China could probably string together an aerial refueling chain to get ground based air on a strike mission all the way to eastern Africa (as long as nobody with a good IADS cared), but they don't have the carrier-based aviation to provide sufficient air cover, and persistent ground-based air cover beyond about 1000 miles is a non starter. Maybe in 20 years they'll be able to consider sailing a 4 CV group all the way to Africa, but that's still just moving valuable assets outside of their A2/AD umbrella.

    2. " string together an aerial refueling chain ... carrier-based aviation"

      I'm sure you're aware that the Chinese have a naval base with runway in Djibouti, Africa. With relatively little effort they could bolster the base and turn it into a major airbase. So, they're already well on their way to establishing a significant military presence in Africa.

      I'm sure they're hard at work acquiring the rights to basing elsewhere in Africa. For example,

      "Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, commander of the U.S. Africa Command, testifies before the House Committee on Armed Services during a hearing Tuesday, March 6, 2018, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Waldhauser told lawmakers that he predicts China will expand beyond Djibouti,..."

      "China simply can't compete in the region."

      I would say they can, in short order, compete and, within a short time frame, exceed our military presence.

    3. I think it's far more likely we will see China first assert itself militarily in Africa. Chinese are many things BUT stupid isn't one of them. One, they know their military needs real combat experience and two, you NEVER start a war with the big guy on the block first....They will move their chess pieces slowly and methodically, maybe take down a govt or secure a govt that is pro-China, send in some elite troops, maybe a small amphibious landing, maybe a parachute drop, take an airport,etc...maybe rescue a Chinese embassy, then progressively work themselves into more complex and bigger ops. I would expect after a few years of intervening in Africa, maybe having a clash with a Philippines or Vietnam if they haven't bent the knee to Chinese rule. Then we will see Taiwan invasion and/or conflict with USA. So 5 to 10 years,tops.

      The only way this could change is AN ACCELERATION of the program if they see USA weak and divided that gives them a quick opening. Then they might skip a step or 2 to go for a bigger prize BUT it would be very risky so IMHO it's a smaller probability.


  6. Somewhat related to training: "Speaking at a Heritage Foundation event last month, Bryan Clark, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said that optimistically, a carrier strike group could likely knock down 450 incoming missiles, but “that is not enough. You are looking at a threat that is at least 600, and maybe more weapons” that the Chinese can launch from their coast on short notice."

    So are we training our S2A and A2A to realistically defeat Chinese missiles or not? Have we conducted exercises where a carrier group executes that mission?

    1. "a carrier strike group could likely knock down 450 incoming missiles"

      This is exactly the type of isolated, disconnected, meaningless statement that I try so hard to prevent. Without describing the circumstances, the statement means nothing and says nothing. For starters, how many carriers did he include in his carrier strike group and how many escorts? And the list of questions goes on, almost endlessly.

      If 450 missiles show up one at a time then we can probably shoot them all down. If 450 missiles arrive simultaneously, we'll be luck to shoot down 30. You see what I mean about a meaningless statement?

      Now, to be fair, Clark had an agenda and rigorous combat simulation probably wasn't part of it. He was making a larger point.

      My point is that readers of this blog have to identify this kind of meaningless statement for what it is.

      The same applies to the statement about being able to launch 600 missiles on short notice. No they can't! Simply coordinating such an event would move it outside the realm of short notice. And so on.

      As far as your questions about training, you know the answer. We haven't even remotely attempted to train against a high volume missile threat. We are totally unprepared for that scenario. Our commanders and sailors are, however, quite knowledgeable about gender sensitivity issues because that's what we train for.

    2. "So are we training our S2A and A2A to realistically defeat Chinese missiles or not? Have we conducted exercises where a carrier group executes that mission?"

      Right now I am fairly confident the USN does not have enough subsonic and supersonic missile drones to simulate such an attack and has never done so. If I'm not mistaken its only in the last 2 years the Navy has taken position of and used supersonic missile drones and then only in a one off test shots.

      If China or Russia or somebody else manged to produce a 450 missile simultaneous attack on a CV group(something I don't see anyone training for) I doubt outside of normal mode on Harpoon 2 there is a good basis for saying a US carrier group that has never trained for that or been tested by such an attack could win. Given the fragility of USN ships, their inability to navigate, their inability to realize they are shooting down a civilian aircraft while in a minor fire fight, their unwillingness to arm automatic defenses. Nope I say Bryan Clark is likely towing the Pentagon line uncritically. Think Tank should raise a flag. The stuff out of the Navy War Collage paints a rather less nice picture for even a 12-ish salvo of BhroMas at some 20/25 nmi - per Burke. And as CNO likes to point out even one missile is possibly/likely a mission kill.

    3. Completely agree with you and CNO.

      I do find it troubling that BD and other military, defense, aerospace websites never really challenge more or question the remarks, I guess they are following the general DOWNWARD trend of media....

      For me, the number 450 missiles wasn't really that I was thinking we would see 450 missiles coming down all at once on our carriers(hope NOT!)BUT in my experience, numbers just don't pop out of nowhere, (let's not talk about past and presents White House occupants), so this 450 missiles came out of some discussion or close door remarks with DoD, is that what US DoD thinks China has in inventory right now? Can we assume that's what USN thinks could potential hit them in conflict with China over a couple of days, weeks, maybe a month?

    4. " numbers just don't pop out of nowhere"

      Well, they kind of do. There's an old saying that you can use statistics to say anything you want. You simply have to establish (manipulate) the conditions to generate the result you want (closely related to the old computer saying GIGO - Garbage In, Garbage Out). So, do you want to be able to say that China can launch 450 (or 600) missiles at a carrier group? Just set the initial conditions appropriately. Do you want to say that we can shoot down 450 missiles? Just set the conditions appropriately.

      So, did the number pop out of nowhere? No, someone established a set of conditions that would generate that number. So, yes, it did kind of pop out of nowhere, I guess.

      The question is how valid and realistic are those initial conditions?

      I have no idea what set of conditions led to numbers of 450 or 600 so I can't comment other than to say that there are very few realistic scenarios in which any military, US or China, could assemble and launch a coordinated assault of 450 (or 600) missiles. Thus, I'm dubious.

      How's that for a long winded way of addressing 'pop up' numbers? Again, I try to encourage the blog readers to critically analyze these kinds of numbers and claims. I go to great lengths to lay out my conditions and make sure they're as realistic as I can make them when I generate my own numbers and statements in my posts.

      On the subject of the formal military news websites, they're just repeating public relations announcements from the military and those announcements are, uniformly, pure spin. None of the websites critically analyze what they're fed and ask questions. That's one of the reasons I established this blog - to analyze the news.

  7. Well there's training and more usefully, actual combat. The US and other loyal Western allies have been constantly in wars since 2001.

    While China's last war, I believe, was the China Vietnam Border War of 1979, where China received extremely high (old fashioned frontal assualt) casualties .

    1. Well there's combat that applies to war (that would be useful experience) and then there's police actions and nation building which is what the US has been engaged in and which leads to bad habits, poor tactics, incorrect force structures, and doctrine that can't be executed.

      We've grown used to uncontested aerial supremacy, secure bases, uninterrupted supply lines, and low end opponents. Real war won't be even remotely like that. The last two decades of police actions have badly degraded our military. Their experience has been all wrong for peer war. We're still training for, and fighting, insurgencies while the Chinese are training for all-out war with the US.

  8. China is the new Japan. They're well on their way to securing the Pacific-- as America's economy collapses. The reason China will win is that Americans have lost their will to fight, or to sacrifice for their country. All the "smart" kids think it's cool to be cynical-- to roll their eyes when they hear words like "duty" or "honor".

    Aside from a few thousand Special Forces types, we've got a hollow military. The politicians are working for the enemy (how else can you explain Obama giving Iran nuclear weapons, what other explaination for the TPP is possible?) We've got media, entertainment, academia, etc. pushing defeatism and anti-Americanism ("America was NEVER that great..." and people CHEERED!)

    "If history is any teacher, it teaches that when you become indifferent and lose the will to fight, some other sonofabitch who has the will to fight will take you over" -- Arthur "Bull" Simons

    We've got a President who's been burned in efigy for being a nationalist!


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