PLAGF Combined Arms Brigades

Updated: Apr 7

The Combined Arms Brigade (CA-BDE) is the principle operational-level unit of the People's Liberation Army Ground Force (PLAGF). CA-BDEs are extremely similar in size and capability to the United States Army's Brigade Combat Teams (BCTs), with maneuver, fires, logistics, communications, engineer, and electronic warfare (EW) capabilities under a single headquarters element. Due to the lack of joint capabilities available to CA-BDEs, the PLAGF is currently developing means for brigades to control units from other services during training exercises and operations.


Publicly available information indicates the PLAGF currently operates three classes of CA-BDEs: light, medium, and heavy.


Light

The PLAGF currently has four types of light CA-BDEs: motorized, airborne, mountain, and amphibious. While the exact composition of airborne, mountain, and amphibious brigades remain unclear, motorized CA-BDEs are well understood.


Composed of four motorized combined arms battalions (CA-BNs), one reconnaissance battalion, one artillery battalion, one air defense battalion, one operational support battalion, one service support battalion, and a headquarters company, motorized CA-BDEs are unique in their ability to quickly muster and reach an objective. Unlike mechanized units, PLAGF doctrine stipulates that motorized brigades solely use their vehicles for transportation, and not as a way to directly engage the enemy.



Medium

The PLAGF currently operates one type of medium CA-BDE: mechanized. According to an analysis of mechanized CA-BDEs by the United States Army in Army Technique Publication (ATP) 7-100.3, the only difference between Chinese mechanized units and motorized units is that mechanized BDEs employ their vehicles as combat platforms that support the infantry, whereas motorized brigades solely use their vehicles for transportation. This difference in doctrine results in a different combat platforms being utilized by motorized and mechanized brigades.



Heavy

The PLAGF only maintains one type of heavy CA-BDE: armored. The Armored BDE is the PLAGF's primary armored force. Armored formations in different Theater Commands (TC) are provided with a different armored platforms, as different operating environments have different requirements.