In an unusual move, a unit within China’s PLA Rocket Force, responsible for conventional and nuclear missiles, has identified “shortcomings” during a field assessment of a military exercise, as reported by PLA Daily on Friday. This revelation suggests potential gaps in combat readiness within the branch of the military overseeing missile operations.
According to the official military newspaper, it’s emphasized that the assessment of training and troop preparation should be an ongoing process, with regular evaluations needed to address bottlenecks and challenges. A Communist Party leader within a Rocket Force unit, who recently conducted a field survey, stressed the importance of this continuous improvement.
Recent developments have cast a spotlight on the combat readiness of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Rocket Force. This strategic branch of China’s military witnessed a sudden change in leadership at the end of July when its two top leaders were replaced by commanders from outside the force.
Since August, the PLA Rocket Force has conducted at least two drills and training sessions, as indicated by its official account on the Chinese microblog platform Weibo.
Throughout the year, Communist Party members within the PLA Rocket Force have made multiple visits to the front lines of drills and exercises to assess combat readiness, according to the PLA Daily. However, the newspaper also highlighted challenges, including the difficulty of ad hoc groups of Party members effectively meeting the needs of troops scattered across vast distances.
It was stressed that the troops’ focus should be on their “spirit” despite these challenges. The newspaper also mentioned staffing shortages within a specific brigade.
Notably, during a visit to troops in northeastern Heilongjiang province earlier in the month, President Xi Jinping, who is also the military’s commander-in-chief, emphasized the importance of maintaining high combat readiness as new capabilities are developed.
The leadership uncertainties are not limited to the Rocket Force. In early September, China’s Defense Minister, Li Shangfu, abruptly canceled a meeting with Vietnamese defense leaders, raising questions about his absence from public view for several weeks. The role of China’s defense minister primarily involves defense diplomacy and does not command combat forces, and as of now, there has been no official comment from the ministry regarding his absence.