By Zhao Lei
The People's Liberation Army recently carried out a live-fire assault exercise on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, intending to improve its troops' combat capability on such locations, according to the military.
The exercise was conducted by a ground combat brigade of the PLA Tibet Regional Command this month and involved scenarios such as rapid deployment, multiunit joint strike and anti-aircraft defense, a news release from the PLA said.
Before the exercise, the brigade mobilized all of its members and equipment and took six hours to transport them from the barracks to the drill zone at an altitude of 5,000 meters on the plateau.
As soon as soldiers arrived at the drill zone, they were ordered to occupy fronts of the "enemies" but were then countered by strong firepower.
They summoned artillery forces to suppress the "enemies" and sent assault teams to take out bunkers. Air defense units used twin-barrel anti-aircraft guns to bring down aerial targets.
Videos published by the military showed soldiers used flamethrowers, rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns to strike bunkers while various types of heavy weapons were employed in the exercise, including mortars, self-propelled howitzers, multiple rocket launchers and anti-tank missiles.
The exercise effectively tested the brigade's joint strike capability on plateaus, according to the news release.
Earlier this month, PLA Daily, the military's flagship newspaper, reported that a ground combat brigade of the Tibet Regional Command conducted a live-fire war game at an unidentified area with an altitude of 5,100 m.
The report said the brigade has new types of weapons after a structural reform this year, improving its combat capability so that it is stronger than before. Photos in the report showed Type-96 main battle tanks appeared in the exercise and fired on targets.
Whether the two exercises were performed by one brigade or two separate brigades remains unknown.
Qin Zhen, executive editor of Ordnance Knowledge magazine, said that the recent exercises have displayed the strong combat capability of the PLA's plateau units.
He added that in recent years the Chinese military developed a number of lightweight weapons such as a wheeled infantry fighting vehicle and a new light tank to meet requirements of mountain operations.
Xiao Ning, editor-in-chief of Weapon magazine, said the new light tank features strong firepower, advanced armor and good mobility, so it is suitable for deployment on plateaus.
Senior Colonel Wu Qian, a Defense Ministry spokesman, confirmed at a news briefing in late June that a new type of tank was being tested on plateaus in Tibet.
Chinese media reported that the light tank is equipped with a hydropneumatic suspension system that ensures good maneuverability and survivability in mountainous regions, noting its main weapon is a 105-mm gun that is able to fire shells and guided missiles.