New Pentagon maps show China’s growing military power and reach

  • The latest China military strength report by the US Department of Defense describes the expansion of Beijing’s armed forces, their increasing penetration.
  • Below, you can see some of the maps included in the report and they tell about China’s growing powerful military.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Last week, the Pentagon released its annual China Military Strength Report, which marked the ongoing transformation of China’s military into a modern force officially known as the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

The report includes facts that will unite US policymakers and defense officials: China now has the world’s largest navy, is already expanding its large-scale and advanced missile arsenal, and Taiwan’s outer islands Has the ability to seize.

“China has eroded resources, technology and political will to strengthen and modernize the PLA over the past few decades,” the report said, adding that “China is already in some areas the United States. Is ahead of America. ”

This point is made clear in six maps that illustrate the limitations of PLA forces and its missiles.

People’s Liberation Army Ground Force

Chinese soldier

Chinese soldiers train in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

Reuters / stringer

The first map shows the locations of the headquarters of the PLA Ground Forces (identified in the report as the PLA Army or PLAA), as well as the general positions of their group armies.

The map shows its location within five theater commands of the PLA: Northern, Central, Eastern, Southern and Western. There are also two more military commands in China’s outlying provinces, Xinjiang and Tibet.

The report claimed that the PLAA is the world’s largest permanent ground, with 915,000 active-duty personnel in 13 group armies, one roughly the size of the US Army Corps – 20,000 to 45,000 troops.

China military ground unit map

US Department of Defense

A group of troops is made up of 78 Combined Arms Brigades, each of which may contain more than 5,000 soldiers.

The brigade is organized into three categories: heavy (tank and armored vehicles), medium (wheeled armored vehicles), and light (infantry, air raid, mountain and motorized).

Interestingly, the map includes the PLA’s Airborne Corps, which is actually part of China’s Air Force. The Corps is made up of six Airborne Combined Arms Brigades, at least one of which is made up of an air dropable armored infantry fighting vehicle, the ZBD-03.

People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN)

Chinese navy

Chinese Navy.

REUTERS / China Daily

The next map focuses on China’s Navy, the PLAN.

It is the largest navy in the world with 350 ships, and is “made up of modern multi-role platforms, with advanced anti-ship, anti-air and anti-submarine weapons and sensors.”

The ships are part of PLA’s three fleets located in the northern, eastern and southern theaters.

China naval unit map

US Department of Defense

The map shows the makeup of all the fleets, with the eastern and southern flats being the most frequent vessels. The PLAN also includes six Marine Corps brigades and a small but growing air force.

Although PLAN shows clear signs of global ambitions, its main focus is to dominate territories along the First Island chain, extending from Kyushu to waters around Vietnam. A major flashpoint along this route is Taiwan, which Beijing sees as the Brexit province.

It is assumed that in the event of war with Taiwan, ships from the eastern and southern theaters will join directly around the island, while ships from the northern theater will defend the maritime approach to China.

People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF)

FILE PHOTO: In this handout picture taken by the Japan Air Self-Defense Force, a Chinese H-6 bomber flies over the East China Sea and released by the Joint Staff Office of the Defense Ministry of Japan on July 23, 2019.  JAPAN MINISTRY / HANDOUT THROUGH REUTERS

A Chinese H-6 bomber above the East China Sea.


According to the report, PLAAF is the largest air force in the region jointly with PLAN’s air wing and the third largest in the world.

“The PLAAF is rapidly capturing a wide range of capabilities and competencies of the Western Air Force,” the report states.

Of the 1,500 fighter jets in China, 800 are considered fourth generation, with fighter jets among Western inventions. PLAAF also has a stealth fighter in service and a stealth bomber in development.

The map shows the PLAAF / PLAN Aviation Theater headquarters as well as the approximate locations of each of the many airports. Importantly, it also shows which homes are in the PLAAF’s Bomber and Transport Division headquarters.

Map of china aviation unit

US Department of Defense

Last October, China unveiled the H-6N bomber, its first nuclear-capable bomber capable of aerial refueling. It marks the return of the aerial leg of China’s nuclear test.

With the development of possibly an air-launched nuclear ballistic missile, China could soon conduct a complete and feasible nuclear test for the first time.

The map also notes special mission aircraft, which handle electronic warfare and aerial refueling. They are important force multipliers and are essential for a modern and major air force.

Most of China’s airbases are in the south and east of the country. Its airbases to the west are far from India, limiting PLAAF capabilities in a largely stressed area.

Chinese Missile Range

China's military DF-26 ballistic missile Tianmen Gate

On September 3, 2015, military vehicles carrying DF-26 ballistic missiles pass through Tianmen Gate during a military parade in Beijing.

Andy Wong / via Pool REUTERS

The three maps may be the most important weapons of the PLA: ballistic and cruise missiles that demonstrate destructive capability. China has the world’s largest and most diverse missile arsenal.

The first missile map shows the range of China’s traditional missiles, which are capable of reaching the Second Island chain, about 2,000 km away.

China traditional missile range map

US Department of Defense

Of particular concern are DF-26 and DF-21. Both are mobile ground-launched intermediate-range ballistic missiles expected to target American carriers and their escort ships. The DF-26, which can carry conventional and nuclear warheads, is known as the “Guam Killer” because of its ability to reach American bases in Guam.

PLAAF’s H-6J bombers, capable of carrying six YJ-12 anti-ship missiles, extend the PLA’s anti-ship capabilities even more.

The second missile map depicting China’s ICBM range is more challenging. This shows that China’s ICBM can reach 1,750 km to 13,000 km.

China nuclear ballistic missile range map

US Department of Defense

CSS-4 Mod 2 / Mod 3 (also known as DF-5) and DF-41 are particularly feared. Both can reach almost all of the continental US, and the DF-41, first unveiled last October, can carry up to 10 several independently targeted reusable vehicles – 10 warheads, each capable of hitting different targets, which are released when the missile reaches the top.

China is increasing its investment in missile technology. The report states that, in 2019, the PLA Rocket Force (PLARF) “launched more ballistic missiles for testing and training than the rest of the world.”

The final map shows China’s range of anti-air, anti-ship and short-range ballistic missiles belonging to Taiwan. Nearly all the islands are covered by the mainland, and PLAN ships are capable of filling any gaps.

China Taiwan Missile Range Map

US Department of Defense

There are still significant differences in the quality and capabilities of Chinese troops and weapons compared to the US.

The US military has much more combat experience than powerful assets such as the PLA (which has not fought a major war since 1979) as well as dedicated carrier groups. The US has a number of allies in the region which it has worked on a large scale.

The PLA still faces challenges, such as the difficulty of producing high-quality engines and tackling corruption and infiltration within the Chinese Communist Party.

But the maps take the house to the point of report: China’s military is a vast and modern force only growing stronger.

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