Observes Chinese Land Combat Exercise
China — Artillery and mortar fire poured in on one impact
area, while attack helicopters launched strikes that absolutely
pulverized another. Tanks and armored personnel carriers raced down tank
trails, firing main guns and disgorging soldiers who immediately
went on the attack with small
All this – and
more – went on under the watchful eyes of General Peter
Pace. As chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and a Marine
for 40 years, Pace has participated in countless exercises
like this one.
one was different for the chairman. The troops, tanks, aircraft
and armored vehicles were Chinese. Pace observed the exercise
at the Dalian Training Area here at the invitation of the leaders
of the People’s Liberation Army.
here to increase understanding and military-to-military cooperation
between the United States and China. He met with senior Chinese
defense and foreign affairs leaders in Beijing March 22 and
23. After the meetings, he flew to Shenyang, China and was
hosted by soldiers of the Military Region. He visited
airmen of the 1st Air Division at Anshan Air Base and then
flew in a PLA Air Force Boeing 737-300 here to observe the
exercise conducted by soldiers of the 39th Army Corps.
Fog on the
peninsula jutting out into the Yellow Sea almost cancelled
the trip. But it cleared enough to continue. Pace and his staff
ate lunch with the leaders of the unit and then climbed a steep
hill to observe the exercise. A Chinese senior colonel described
what would take place through an interpreter.
the crack of artillery began.
military ran the exercise without mistake or mishap, even though
banks of fog sometimes obscured the terrain. Pace watched as
state-of-the-art T-99 tanks rumbled into view and he could
hear the squeal of the tracks as they went over the roadwheels.
ran out of BMPs – armored personnel carriers – to
open lanes through simulated minefields. Some vehicles were “hit” and
large clouds of red smoke billowed from them. The follow on
forces drove on to the battlefield in older T-80 tanks.
the noise, the smells, the orders pouring over the radio net
were familiar to seasoned U.S. military professionals observing
the exercise. Even the feeling as the overpressure of an explosion
a mile away reaches the observation point seemed normal. One
difference was that in the United States, the friendly forces
are called the “blue forces.” In China, the friendly
forces are called “red forces.”
the exercise, Pace spoke with PLA leaders and then met with
the soldiers who put on the demonstration. Pace thanked the
soldiers for the extra work they had to put in to make the
demonstration so successful. He told them he was honored to
be with them, and said the free and truthful exchange of ideas
by military professionals can make the world a safer place.
After a group
photo, Pace and Command Sgt. Maj. William J. Gainey shook hands
with each of the soldiers involved.
Visits Chinese Air Base,
China — In a move toward openness, Chinese military officials
let the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff examine their
combat aircraft and allowed him to speak with pilots and ground personnel
Peter Pace and his party toured Anshan Air Base, home of the
Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air
Force’s 1st Air Division, and he examined
a Chinese-built Su-27 fighter-bomber. The base was part of a visit to the
Shenyang Military Region.
The 1st Air
Division has three flying regiments and has Su-27s, F-8s and
F-7Es. The Su-27 is the top of the food chain for the PLA Air
Force, and Pace was the first American to get such a close
look at the aircraft, senior Chinese officials said.
know the aircraft by the code name Flanker, and former Soviet
Union engineers designed it to counter the American F-15 Eagle.
The Su-27 was engineered to be an air superiority fighter and
the Chinese still use it in that role, but they also can use
it as a precision ground-attack aircraft. The Russians licensed
the Chinese to build the plane in China.
does have some drawbacks. Some of the avionic packages are
Russian, and the “warranty isn’t the best,” said
a U.S. military official speaking on background. There is no
air-to-air refueling capability for the Su-27, and that limits
the Flanker to a range of about 1,500 kilometers.
Command Sgt. Maj. William J. Gainey, the senior enlisted advisor
to the chairman, and Air Force Brig. Gen. Ralph Jodice, the
defense attaché at the American embassy in Beijing,
climbed into the cockpit of the aircraft. In addition, Chinese
pilots flew four aircraft around the airfield to give the chairman
and his party a small look at what the aircraft can do in the
said examining the aircraft was good, Pace said he was even
more interested in the PLA Air Force personnel. The chairman
spoke to pilots and enlisted
men about their service, the qualities of their aircraft and their training
and experience of the personnel. He said they were highly motivated and
impressed him with their professionalism.
said all their pilots are college graduates and that 96 percent
of them are capable of handling complex air operations. The
officials said pilots average 120 hours of flying time per
year with most of their training centered on tactical considerations.
Roughly 35 percent of pilot training is at night. They said
they had about 130 pilots for the 100 aircraft in the unit.
U.S. Air Force pilots average about 250 flying hours per year
and there are roughly 120 pilots per 100 aircraft.
the Chinese personnel for their work. He said their efforts
are helping to bring China and the United States closer together.
Pace told the airmen that the United States and China have
many common national interests and that it is in Asia’s
and the world’s interest for the two countries to cooperate.
visit, the base commander pinned a set of Chinese pilot wings
on Pace’s uniform. Pace told the commander, and all the
pilots he met, that, “while I did not earn the wings,
I will wear them as a compliment to your professionalism.”