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.
"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
"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.