Mutual trust: Russian troops to operate modern PLA equipment

Liu Xuanzun

Beijing: Chinese and Russian troops have been eagerly preparing for the upcoming Zapad/Interaction-2021 exercise in China, with the participating Russian servicemen provided with modern weapons and equipment of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) for the first time in a move Chinese experts said displays high level of mutual trust and will enhance joint combat capabilities of the two militaries.

In preparation for the exercise scheduled from August 9 to 13 in the Qingtongxia Combined Arms Tactical Training Base in Northwest China’s Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, servicemen of the Russian military contingent from the formations and military units of the Eastern Military District for the first time mastered modern models of military equipment and weapons of the PLA, the Russian Defense Ministry said in a news release.

Military personnel of the Russian Air Defense Forces were learning how to drive and use weapons on a medium wheeled tank and an armored vehicle of the Chinese army, the Russian Defense Ministry said,
The Russian troops were provided with the PLA’s Type 11 wheeled assault gun and Type 08 infantry fighting vehicle, China Central Television (CCTV) reported.

Training was held with the direct participation of military instructors of the PLA ground forces in several stages with theoretical training, classes on electronic simulators, as well as practical driving and shooting, both individually and as part of units, according to the Russian news release.
A number of practical trainings will take place, with the participation of units of Russian and Chinese troops in the near future, with aviation units of both sides also taking part, it said.

During the Kavkaz-2020 strategic drills held in Russia in September last year, Chinese troops for the first time used main battle weapons and equipment provided by the Russian military, including the T-72B3 tank, BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicle and Igla-S air defense missile, CCTV reported at that time.
Chinese and Russian troops’ exchanges of each other’s weapons and equipment in joint exercises are a reflection of mutual trust, Wei Dongxu, a Beijing-based military expert, told the Global Times.

This will allow both sides to better understand each other’s way of combat and form better tacit understandings in future joint military operations and antiterrorist missions, he said, noting that the two militaries’ weapons and equipment can support each other and lead to better cooperative moves.
All participating Russian troops and equipment have arrived in Ningxia last Saturday, including five Su-30 fighter jets, CCTV reported on the day.
Chinese troops, including army aviation, special operations and air defense forces have also been in intensive preparations for the exercise.

In a recent rehearsal to the exercise, an Army Aviation brigade affiliated with the PLA Xinjiang Military Command dispatched Mi-171 transport helicopters and carried not only soldiers of a special operations brigade, but also Lynx all-terrain assault vehicles for airborne combat, the PLA Western Theater Command revealed in a news release on Wednesday.
PLA air defense forces will deploy and are training with the HQ-17, one of the PLA’s most powerful brigade-level field air defense missile systems, CCTV reported.
It will be complemented by the Type 95 4-barrel 25-mm-caliber anti-aircraft artillery and surface-to-air missile system, according to the report.

The Zapad/Interaction-2021 exercise was announced by the Chinese Defense Ministry at a regular press conference on July 29.
A total of more than 10,000 personnel, multiple types of aircraft, artillery pieces and armored equipment will be dispatched mainly from the PLA Western Theater Command and Russia’s Eastern Military District in the exercise, with the aim of testing joint reconnaissance, early warning, electronic information attack and strike capabilities.

The purpose of the exercise is to consolidate the comprehensive strategic partnership in a new era, deepen the pragmatic cooperation and traditional friendship, and further display the determination and ability of both sides to combat terrorist forces and maintain regional peace and security, the Chinese Defense Ministry said.

It is the first time that China will host a joint drill with another country since the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020, and this indicates a new level of military-to-military cooperation as well as high level political mutual trust, a Chinese expert on international affairs who requested anonymity told the Global Times.

The exercise is also expected to display China and Russia’s roles as major powers in jointly safeguarding regional peace and stability in Central Asia following the US’ irresponsible troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, while also enhancing military cooperation under the context that both countries are facing suppression by the US, the expert said.
Since 2018, China has participated in the Vostok-2018, Tsentr-2019 and Kavkaz-2020 strategic drills in Russia.