(From the National Interest)
By Elsa Kania, Kenneth W. Allen
PLA theorists see unmanned operations (无人作战) as integral elements of future warfare. For instance, in a January 2016 article, Xiao Tianliang, editor of the People’s Liberation Army National Defense University’ 2015 edition of The Science of Military Strategy, alluded to “unmanned systems autonomous operations” (无人系统独立作战) and “unmanned systems and manned systems joint operations” (无人系统与有人系统联合作战) as likely to have a “huge impact” on traditional operational models (PLA Daily, January 5). As such, China’s unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and in particular, the organizations, as well as educational and training programs, established to support these systems are worthy of attention.
The PLA’s “Golden Launcher” of Military UAVs
When Xi Jinping met the PLA’s delegation to the National People’s Congress in March 2016, one of the military personnel who received particular notice was Master Sergeant Class One (一级军士长) Ju Xiaocheng (巨孝成), the director of a UAV launch site subordinate to the Army Artillery Academy (炮兵学院无人机发射站站长), which was renamed the Army Officer Academy (陆军军官学院) in 2011, in Hefei, Anhui Province (Baike, [Accessed May 7]). Based on his record of a 100 percent success rate in UAV launches, Ju has been praised as the PLA’s “golden launcher” of military-use UAVs (军用无人机“金牌发射手”) (China Military Online, March 14; China Military Online, March 15).
At the time, Xi declared to Ju, “UAVs are important operational forces for the modern battlefield. You must carry out your duties well and cultivate qualified personnel” (China Military Online, March 14). The career trajectory of this UAV team’s technician (无人机队技师), who has personally trained the majority (as of 2009, approximately 80 percent) of the entire PLA’s UAV specialty cadre (无人机专业干部), offers an interesting illustration of the process through which the PLA has developed these personnel thus far (Xinhua, May 26, 2009; PLA Daily, April 4). Read more