A harsh alarm sounded at midnight in the cold winter somewhere in northwest China. Service members assigned to an air defense battalion of the PLA Army (PLAA) rushed to their combat positions. Battalion commander Zhao Xinghai stared at the watch in his hand, while the time for level-upgrading was shortened by another 30 seconds.
This is a combat-readiness drill of the PLAA air defense troops. However, it was an air force base under the PLA Western Theater Command that gave the order to upgrade the combat readiness level.
Starting from July, several air defense battalions under an army air defense brigade have taken turns to join in the command system of an air force base under the PLA Western Theater Command for alert duty.
"It seems to be a small step of sharing air intelligence, but actually is a giant leap of system integration," said the commanding officer of the air force base. From unifying standards for equipment accession, to integrating understanding and forming a joint force, no step is easy.
The air force base had organized its troops from ground defense, radar and communications to visit the army air defense brigade for three times in order to unify information interfaces and develop relevant standards.
The combined training breeds a win-win situation. The army air defense battalion has become a new highlight in the air force base's early warning system. Radars used by the army are more accurate in detecting relevant targets, which has thus filled in the blind spots of the air force's early warning radar system. At the same time, accessing the air force base's early warning system enables the army air defense battalion to detect a larger range so as to provide strong support for early detection and early strike.
"It feels like real combat!" said Li Ze, an army radar technician, who is thrilled that he can fight against more opponents. In the past, Li seldom had opportunities for joint training with the aviation troops in a year. Now, he and his troops have already carried out five air-to-ground force-on-force training within six months. As a result, they have explored multiple sets of tactics suitable for their equipment's performance characteristics.
The mode of warfare is constantly innovating and changing. Systematic training and joint operations is an important and practical subject for China to make breakthroughs in building a world-class military in an all-round way.