China cannot afford to modernize its entire army (fifty divisions and
about twenty independent brigades). Indeed, most of these divisions are
equipped with 1960s era gear, and depend on trucks, not armored vehicles, for
transportation. What China is trying to do is equip about twenty percent of its
divisions with more modern equipment (1980s and 90s class), along with more
complete sets of gear. Emphasis is on equipping everyone with modern
anti-aircraft weapons and communications equipment. In too many divisions,
broken radios mean that many commanders are relying on messengers (on foot or
in a vehicle) or telephone (landline, or cell phone if available).
army is also trying to integrate air support in their training. This was not
done much in the past, because of the expense of putting warplanes in the air.
But combat pilots are being given more flight time these days, and now some of
that is devoted to, not just bombing practice, but doing it in coordination
with actual army units. This has proved scary, because the troops and pilots
lacked much practical experience. But it also revealed that, with some
practice, the airplanes and ground troops could work well together.
with armored vehicles is also expensive, because of the fuel cost, and the need
for extra maintenance, and spare parts, for the vehicles. Again, inspired by
the American experience, the Chinese are finding out that the units that can train
a lot, become a lot more confident, and impressive when they are called out to
perform in field exercises.
is also trying to muster the money and equipment to equip each "Group Army"
(roughly equivalent to a Western corps, a unit with two or three divisions and
some support units) with an aviation regiment. This unit would have twenty or
so helicopters, plus UAVs and a few fixed wing aircraft. For several decades,
every American divisions has had an aviation brigade, and the success of this arrangement
has not gone unnoticed. But because of the expense, and need to train so many
additional pilots and ground crews, it will be another decade before every
Group Army gets its aviation regiment.