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In PLA war games, side playing West fails to convince, says military mouthpiece

Every summer, the military holds war games in Inner Mongolia that pit PLA troops gathered as the “red army” against the “blue army” – a collection of tanks, artillery and soldiers that represent Western forces.

Ideally, the head-to-head drills should give soldiers experience in reacting to the tactics of Nato ground forces, including the United States Army. But according to the PLA Daily, the blue army is falling widely short of expectations.

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Citing an anonymous officer in charge of an army training base, the military mouthpiece reported yesterday that the “blue army”, was too simplistic in its simulation of how Western troops operate.

To address the problem, military institutions and the Zhurihe Training Base in Inner Mongolia have drawn up a formal appraisal system for the dummy unit.

The new assessment would be implemented during the current war games, which kicked off last month. Land forces from all five theatre commands are taking part, as well as air force units involved in early warning.

“The standardisation of the ‘blue army’ will help the land forces in modern joint operations that are involved in aviation teams, missile troops and other strategic supporting forces,” said Song Zhongping, a Beijing-based military expert.

The review system will focus on three main requirements: how much the blue army appears like Western military forces, which includes eating, living and uniforms; how much they learn from the Western forces’ approach; and how well they perform.

In order to better imitate the US Army, the blue army were given upgraded weapons and artillery last year, including the advanced 094A battle tank, the Type-07 self-propelled artillery and an early warning system.

“This new evaluation will also help the blue army discover its problems and consolidate goals, paving the way for it to become a professional ‘coaching unit’,” the PLA Daily reported, citing Wang Zhian, a drill director involved in the exercises.

The PLA established the “blue army”in 2012, naming it the 195th Mechanised Infantry Brigade and giving it a “prairie wolf” logo.

Compared to traditional armed forces, the special unit employs strong electromagnetic interference to disrupt the communications and command system of the PLA side, according to video footage carried on the website of the military mouthpiece.

During the exercise held in 2014, the red army, drawing on personnel from the former seven military commands, learned some bitter lessons, according to People’s Daily. It said the blue army won six out of seven battles.

Macau-based military expert Antony Wong Dong said the performance of the blue army would become “very close” to the capabilities of the US land forces under the new assessment system.

“The review system will be implemented in the navy, air force and other strategic supporting forces, which have also set up ‘enemy forces’ over the past few years,” Wong said.

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