Military tests new battlefield data system
Trial said to take PLA into future
Beijing yesterday successfully completed the first simulated battlefield trial of a new information system that will revolutionise the way commanders direct troops and resources in combat.
Military experts said the system, tested over the two-day 'North Sword 0709' exercise in Inner Mongolia , showed rapid progress in the goal of modernising the army.
Xinhua said information collected from the exercise, held at the Zhurihe training base, the largest military training field on the mainland, had set a precedent for the performance of the People's Liberation Army on future battlefields.
Each of the 2,000 participating soldiers was equipped with a device that constantly beamed information back to headquarters about battlefield conditions. Xinhua said the system gave commanding officers precise information at any time about ammunition levels, food consumption and casualties among units under their command.
The PLA has been developing the strategic C3I (Control, Command, Communication and Information) system since the 1990s and the exercise was its first big field test.
'Our [information] strategic standard is blank because of the past several decades of peace,' said Zhang Jixiang , deputy commander of the exercise. 'The system can let us know the exact conditions our troops are under in combat ... and when we should support them with logistics.'
He said the system would help commanders avoid making subjective judgments and risking troops because of a lack of supplies or other conditions on the ground.
Hong Kong-based military expert Andrei Chang said the success of the new system showed the PLA had the capability to command several branches on one battlefield at once.
'The information commander system is very popular in western countries because it can control and monitor every situation and soldier on the battlefield,' Mr Chang said. 'But to the PLA, it's still new.'
He said the designers had copied many features from US systems and experience. 'The PLA has spared no effort to learn from the US since the Gulf war.'
Taiwanese military researcher Milton Liao Wen-chung said the system represented a significant element in the PLA's modernisation.
'It is a breakthrough and I believe the 0709 exercise will be a boon to the PLA,' he said. 'The information system can provide important data for future military operations.'
However, military experts said the mainland had a long way to go to catch up with most developed nations. 'It's a very complicated system, as it involves every military unit,' said Xu Guangyu, a retired PLA general. 'I think we need at least 10 years to catch up.'
The goal of the information system was to enhance an area of military technology known as 'battlefield awareness', said Robert Karniol, a Bangkok-based independent military analyst.
Additional reporting by