25 December 2014

China Has 10 Separate and Distinct Special Forces Units

December 21, 2014
The PLA’s special forces: secrets revealed

Soldiers from the People’s Liberation Army’s special operations forces undergo training. 

China’s state media has recently confirmed that the People’s Liberation Army, the largest military force in the world, has 10 major special operations forces, each with its own unique characteristics and code names.

The 10 special force teams hail from each of the PLA’s seven military regions and commando teams from the PLA Navy, Air Force and Chinese People’s Armed Police Forces.

"Siberian Tiger" is the name of the special forces from the PLA’s Shenyang Military Region, capable of completing missions on the ground and in the air and water, as well as surviving in the wilderness alone or in small groups. The unit is said to place special focus on survival skills, often breaking protocols by increasing this training in this area by an additional two-thirds, forcing soldiers to spend three to four months in difficult environments such as forests, mountains, deserts and grasslands with no man-made shelter or food. Soldiers in the squad are trained across multiple transport vehicles for roads, railroads, waterways and in the air, and have reportedly completed completed parachute landings more than 5,000 times and logged scuba diving trainings at more than 1,000 hours.

"Arrow," formerly known as "Divine Sword," is the special forces of the Beijing Military Region. This elite unit tasked with protecting the capital contains 3,000 soldiers, each of whom is adept at a wide range of tasks ranging from battlefield reconnaisance to anti-terrorism. Every soldier from this unit must be able to run five kilometers bearing heavy equipment in under 25 minutes, complete a 400-meter obstacle course in under one minute and 45 seconds, throw several hundred grenades over at least 50 meters each time, and perform 100 push-ups in a minute.

The special forces of the Lanzhou Military Region is the “Night Tiger,” which has a long and illustrious history with its origins dating back to World War II. It is also home of China’s first counter-terrorism unit, established in 2000.

Established in 1992, the “Flying Dragon” is the special forces of the Nanjing Military Region, focusing on non-traditional safety training methods. In 1997, this unit carried out a famous simulated attack on a hidden airfield involving drones, helicopters and paratroopers.

"South Blade" is belongs to the Guangzhou Military Region. Founded in 1988, it is the earliest of the PLA’s official special operations forces. Basic training for this unit include cross-country running, climbing, swimming and shooting, though soldiers must also be familiar with operating 15 advanced technologies including GPS navigation, night vision, and photo reconnaisance.

The “Eagle” is the special operations force of the Jinan Military Region and is a new unit adept at land, air and sea battle and reconnaisance. Soldiers are said to focus on upper body strength training to enhance cardiovascular endurance, including being able to run at least 3,300 meters in under 12 minutes. They also reportedly engage in hand-to-hand combat training as well as the traditional Chinese health and martial arts practice of qigong.

The mysterious “Falcon” is part of the Chengdu Military Region. This unit is said to specialize in thrilling and dangerous missions involving involving car chases, scaling cliffs, and hostage rescue situations.

The PLA Navy’s commando team is the “Jiaolong,” which means “Sea Dragon.” Equipped with black uniforms, this unit’s first publicly known mission was to accompany three Chinese warships in protecting and escorting commercial ships against Somali pirates in December 2008, in cooperation with other nations as part of a UN mandate. Since then, the unit has participated in anti-piracy missions in the Gulf of Eden for over 300 days.

The “Leishen” or “Thor” commando team belongs to the PLA Air Force. Officially established in September 2011, this unit reportedly carries out training with four types of aircraft, eight types of parachutes and 15 parachuting methods to prepare soldiers for a wide range of battle and reconnaisance scenarios.

The Chinese People’s Armed Police Forces have two commando teams, the “Snow Leopard” and the “Falcon.” Since its establishment in December 2002, Snow Leopard has completed more than 90 missions and has participated in major military exercises and performances over 10 times. In the last two years, Snow Leopard soldiers have taken home the top prize at the annual International Warrior Competition, beating out special forces squads from 17 other countries including the US, Russia and France.

The Falcon commando squad has a history dating back to 1982 and has been involved in a wide range of important activities, such as providing protection detail for visiting heads of state as well as safeguarding key events such as the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

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