Sunday, 7 October, 2007

China's Military Tests Real-Time Data System

The Chinese military has begun a two-day drill testing a system that provides

commanders real-time battlefield data, signaling the continued modernization

of the nation’s massive armed forces.

The exercise is part of an ambitious effort to improve military information

collection systems, one of the main shortfalls of the otherwise rapidly

modernizing People’s Liberation Army, the Xinhua news agency reported Sept.

19.

"We are trying to catch up with the advanced countries. It’s a very

complicated system, as it involves every military unit," said retired Chinese

Gen. Xu Guangyu. "I think we need at least 10 years to catch up with the

world’s most sophisticated nations.”

The drill, dubbed “North Sword 0709,” was carried out at the Zhurihe training

base in north China’s Inner Mongolia autonomous region, the nation’s largest

military training field, Xinhua said.

Each of the 2,000 participating soldiers is equipped with an electronic

device constantly beaming information back to headquarters about battlefield

conditions, Xinhua reported.

This allows commanding officers to have precise information at any time about

ammunition levels, food consumption and casualties among units under their

command, according to the agency.

"The system could let us know the exact conditions our troops are under in

combat ... and when we should support them with logistics," said Zhang

Jixiang, a senior officer taking part in the maneuver.

This particular effort targets an area of modern military technology aimed at

enhancing what is known in the specialist literature as "battlefield

awareness," said Robert Karniol, a Bangkok, Thailand-based independent

military analyst.

"The better commanders know what’s happening on the battlefield, the better

they can apply their resources, whether in people or in firepower or in

mobility or in logistics support," he said.

No outside observer knows for sure when China decided to improve its

capabilities in this particular field.

China’s 2.3-million-strong military has seen its 2007 budget rise 17.8

percent from last year, and is now going for quality rather than quantity.

It is focusing considerable attention on the need to adopt high technology as

a means to enhance its battle efficiency, apparently with some success.

Recently, reports suggested that hackers from the People’s Liberation Army

had caused a shutdown of a computer system serving the office of U.S. Defense

Secretary Robert Gates.

Similar hacker attacks linked to the Chinese military have been reported by

other western countries, as well.

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