15th Airborne Corps

15th Airborne Corps

Infobox Military Unit
unit_name= 15th Airborne Corps

country= People's Republic of China
type= Airborne
branch= People's Liberation Army
dates= 1961-Present
command_structure= PLA Air Force
The PLA Air Force 15th Airborne Corps, Guangzhou Military Region, comprises three airborne divisions (43rd, 44th, 45th airborne divisions). The PLA Air Force’s 15th Airborne Corps is China’s primary strategic airborne unit and it is part of the newly formed rapid reaction units (RRU) of the Chinese military which is primarily designated for airborne and special operation missions. Unlike most armed forces, the airborne division is part of the Air Force and its role is similar to that of the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division.

Due to limited airlift capabilities, only one of the Corps' three divisions can deploy to any part of China within 48 hours. In the late 1990s the airlift capability of the PLAAF consisted of 10 IL-76 heavy lift, Yu-8, and Yu-7 transports, as well as Mi-17, Mi-8, S-70C, Z-8, and Z-9 helicopters. Thus, the PLAAF could only lift one division of 11,000 men with light tanks and self-propelled artillery. Reports claim that a 10,000 man airborne division was transported to Tibet in less than 48 hours in 1988.


15th Airborne Corps traces its lineage to an infantry army in Deng Xiaoping's Second Field Army and made its name in the defense of Triangle Hills. All of the PLA's paratroop units belongs to the PLAAF.command structure
name=15th Airborne Corps
subordinate=43rd Parachute Division 44th Parachute Division 45th Parachute Division
On July 26, 1950, the PLAAF's Airborne Troops began when the Military Commission established the PLAAF 1st Marine Brigade in Shanghai, using the Third Field Army's 30th Army's 89th Division as a basis. On August 1, the brigade's Headquarters moved to Kaifeng, Henan Province, which were designated as the brigade's training bases. This brigade eventually became an airborne division. Thereafter, the unit's designation changed several times, becoming the Air Force Marine 1st Division, the Paratroops Division, then the Airborne Division. In May 1961, the Military Commission changed the Army's 15th Army, which had fought during the Korean War, into the PLAAF 15th Airborne Army, and subordinated the PLAAF's original airborne division to this new Army. [ [http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/report/1991/plaaf-ch17.htm GlobalSecurity.org "PLA Airborne Trrops"] ]

In the 1960s when the commander of the PLAAF, General Liu Yalou was asked to create an airborne army, he picked the 15th Army because he had been impressed by its performance in Korea.

During the restructuring of the PLA in 1985, the 15th Army was reduced to three brigades. In the 1990s, the PLA's concept of People's War was replaced by the Limited High-Intensity War concept. This in turn resulted in a return to a divisional structure with an all-over increase of 25% in the 15th Army's strength. It is now more appropriately referring to it as the 15th Airborne Corps.

In 1985, most of the soldiers in the 15th Army were ordinary paratroopers trained for general supporting duties in a combined army campaign. Only 17 percent of them were specialized paratroopers. However, this percentage has now risen to 43 percent and ordinary paratroopers have dropped from 53 percent to 23 percent. The purpose of this increase in the percentage of specialized paratroopers was to make the 15th Airborne Corps into a combined arms force rather than just a mobile infantry force. Thus making it more capable of conducting independent operations in a limited but highly technological focused conflict. [ [http://www.china-defense.com/orbat/15th_airborne/15_abc_1.html China Defense.com "The 15th Airborne Corp"] ]


According to You Ji's "The Armed forces of China", the 15th Airborne Corps has been elevated to the status of a strategic force. It is a departure from the PLA traditional airborne force concept. Doctrinal modernization change allows the 15th Airborne Corps to acts as a principal force employed for independent campaign missions in future wars. It is now accepted that the airborne troops should be used for pre-emptive attack on the enemy's key military targets in the rear area in order to paralyze or disrupt its preparation for an offensive. This kind of large-scale mission cannot be conducted without having a total control in the air. Also, a single-lift capability of 50,000 men is required for this type of missions. Currently, the PLAAF can only lift one division of 11,000 men with light tanks and self-propelled artillery.

More and more focus will be placed on helicopter assaults as opposed to traditional parachute drops. In times of war, the 15th Airborne Corps can also utilize civilian aircraft such as C-130s, HU-1s, AS332s, Chinooks, and a very large number of Y-5 (700+) utility transports. During a number of exercises, the 15th Airborne Corps has demonstrated it can move a regiment plus of paratroopers with light armored vehicles to anywhere within China in less then 24 hours. These exercises also show that a large number of para-gliders are in use.

The 15th Airborne Corps' weapons inventory includes 50-100 BMD-3 derivatives and 2S9 self-propelled mortars, large numbers of BJ212 jeeps with 105mm recoilless rifles or HJ-8E ATGM, and Type 89 120mm SP anti-tank guns. The last two weapon platforms are air transportable. Additional weapons include Type 84 82mm mortars, Type 85 60mm light mortars and Type 85 107mm MRL. In 1997, a new lightweight high-mobility vehicle entered service. Reportedly, up to ten of this new vehicle can be carry by a Y-7H military transport. Paratroopers are outfitted with portable GPS systems, night-vision goggles, radios and other high-tech equipment.

The Airborne Divisions have various special units, including weapons controllers, reconnaissance, infantry, artillery, communications, engineering, chemical defense, and transportation soldiers. Today, the Airborne Divisions have three regiments plus one light artillery regiment, which are further divided into battalions and companies.


* [http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/china/15abn-corps.htm Summary of 15th Airbone Corps at GlobalSecurity.org]

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