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The People's Liberation Army Navy Marine Corps (PLAMC) (Simplified Chinese: 中国人民解放军海军陆战队; Traditional Chinese: 中國人民解放軍海軍陸戰隊; pinyin: Zhōngguó Rénmín Jiěfàngjūn Hǎijūnlùzhànduì) is marine corps of the People's Republic of China's People's Liberation Army Navy. It currently consists of two 6000-man brigades.
Though the Marine Corps was originally established in the 1950s during the Chinese Civil War by Communist troops to conduct amphibious operations against islands held by the Nationalists, the organization was disbanded in October 1957 when the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) abandoned any plans to attack Taiwan. Following the disbanding of the Marine Corps, the PLAN did maintain a naval infantry force, which consisted of several infantry and amphibious tank regiments.
In 1979 the Central Military Commission of the People's Republic of China re-established the Marine Corps and organized it under the PLAN. On 5 May 1980, the 1st Marine Brigade was activated on Hainan.
The Marine Corps is subordinate to PLAN Headquarters, the People's Liberation Army General Staff Department, and the chairman of the Central Military Commission.
The two 6000-man brigades are both based in the South China Sea. It is believed in time of war, up to 28,000 Marines can be mobilized. These two brigades possess combined arms units, including armor, artillery, missile, air defense, and logistics.
Marine Corps: 1st Marine Brigade; 2d or 164th (Marine) Brigade – both Zhanjiang (SSF); 12,000 personnel. Each Brigade comprises the following:
- 1 x Armoured Regiment (2 x Bns w/Type 63 amphibious light tanks),
- 3 x Mechanized Infantry Bns w/Type 86 IFV and Type 63/89 APC (both amphibious),
- Marine (Assault) Infantry Battalion. (750 Marines),
- Special Operations Force Battalion;
- Missile Battalion (HJ-8 & HJ-73 ATGM's and NH-5 SAM's),
- A mixed Engineer and Chemical Battalion;
- Communications and electronic warfare Battalion.
PLAN marines can perform a variety of missions. They are considered elite troops, and are part of the rapid mobilization forces of the Chinese military. All marines are believed to receive the best training, which includes parachuting and amphibious warfare exercises. The marines perform two principal missions: serving as the fighting spearhead of any amphibious operation, to establish a beachhead of launch direct assaults against enemy targets inland via amphibious landing, and acting as a garrison or assault group in island chains, in particular potentially disputed territories in regional waters.
- Type 95 Assault Rifle
- Type 95 Family Squad Automatic Weapon
- HJ-8 Anti-tank missile
- HJ-73 Anti-tank missile
- ZBD2000 Amphibious Tank
- Type 62 Light Tank
- Type 63 Light Amphibious Tank
- Type 63A Light Amphibious Tank
- Type 63 APC
- Type 77 Amphibious APC
- Type 85/89 APC
- Type 86 Infantry Fighting Vehicle
- WZ551 Wheeled APC
- Type 89 Self Propelled 122mm gun system
The modern day Chinese marine possesses the Type 95 bullpup assault rifle as standard infantry armament. The marine wears a blue/littoral camouflage uniform as standard dress. The effectiveness of this camouflage is unknown, and is thought to be ineffective once the marines penetrate deeper into urban and forested terrain. The marines also make use of GPS and night vision systems to enhance their fighting capabilities.
The PLA Marines are equipped with amphibious light tanks and armoured personnel carriers. The Type 63A is the newest light tank in Chinese service. It is based on the hull of the older Type 63 (which in turn is based on the Soviet PT76 amphibious light tank). The Type 63A features a number of improvements, in particular the new welded turret which features much greater armour protection and the 105mm main gun (capable of firing standard NATO projectiles as well as the gun launched anti-tank missile). The marines are believed to have continued operating the Type 63 and the non-amphibious Type 62 light tanks as secondary units. The Type 77 amphibious APC was the standard armoured transport for the marines for many decades. However, new designs have been adapted from the army to complement these aging transports. These include specially modified versions of the Type 89 and Type 63 APCs, with enhanced swimming capabilities. The Type 86 (or WZ501) IFV is also in service with the marines. Based on the Soviet BMP-1, it is armed with a single 73mm main gun and mounts an HJ73 ATGM (with max range of 3000 meters).
For air defense, the marines employ a mix of automatic and manually operated anti-aircraft artillery systems, as well as short range surface-to-air missiles. The marines have been seen operating the new Type 95 self-propelled air defense platform on an amphibious hull similar to the Type 77 APC. This platform is armed with four 25mm cannon with a short ranged SAM combination to achieve effective killing capabilities against low flying targets at short ranges. The Type 89 self-propelled 122mm gun is the first SP artillery system in service with the marines since 1999. This adds additional accurate firepower to the PLAMC.
In terms of equipment, the marines are receiving more modern armoured fighting vehicles. The latest example has been apparently a new light tank. This tank features the same turret as the Type 63A, but is on a lighter chassis that may perform better on water than the original Type 63A hull. Only photos have appeared of this vehicle so far with no firm details. A second new vehicle is a new armoured recovery vehicle, which features a brand new hull. The exact status of both vehicles is still generally unknown.
The marines in the next few years are expected to have greater deployment capability with the introduction of several new ships in the navy. The primary new ship in question is the Type 071 Landing Ship Dock, which could operate both high speed hovercraft to transport troops and vehicles, as well as helicopters. It has also been reported lately that China may sign an agreement in the near future to finalize the purchase of the Russian 'Zubr'-type air cushion assault transport, which could transport sizeable numbers of troops and equipment at speeds exceeding 50 knots.
With the PLAN's accelerating efforts to expand its capabilities beyond territorial waters, it would be likely for the PLAMC to play a greater role in terms of being an offshore expeditionary force similar to the U.S and Royal Marines.