(This was originally posted in The Tribune by Ajay Banerjee)
In a new development along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), China and Pakistan are conducting a joint military drill in Tibet. It has two-pronged goals — targeting warships, besides launching land attacks from the sea; and honing air-defence skills to target enemy aircraft, missiles, or UAVs.
The exercise comes in the backdrop of a recent move of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), which has, for the first time, integrated its units with air-defence assets with PLA-Air Force (PLAAF) along the LAC.
The exercise, which reportedly started on May 22, is scheduled to end in the middle of this week.
China and Pakistan often exercise together. This year, the drill comes in the backdrop of around 1-year military standoff between India and China in eastern Ladakh. The number of Pakistan troops taking part in the exercise is not known. From the Chinese side, troops of the 3 Air Defence Division are participating in it.
In the run-up to the exercise, the PLA conducted a pre-exercise training for the Pakistan army at Sargodha, Punjab, Pakistan.
Pakistan already uses some of the missiles being used in this exercise. For India, this means that similar arsenal could be on board PLA navy and Pakistan navy warships. Moreover, Indian pilots, drones and missiles could face similar threats and counters on both borders.
The Indian security establishment is aware that the Chinese low-to-medium altitude air-defence system, also known as LY-80, is being used. This is a medium-range surface-to-air defence missile system with around a 150-km range. It can intercept and destroy aerial targets flying at low and medium altitudes. The second set of missiles being used in the exercise are SM-6, Eagle anti-ship cruise missiles (better known in military circles by their numbers — YJ-81, YJ-82 & C-802). C-802 is the export version of the YJ-802 land attack and anti-ship cruise missile with a range of 120-150 km. The C-802 anti-ship missile can also be launched from a fighter jet. Tibet has several lakes and water bodies where dummy ships are placed for target practice.
Meanwhile, the PLA has changed its defence tactics along the Line of Actual Control. The PLA air-defence units in its western theatre (Tibet & Xinjiang) form a combined air-defence control system. At least 10 PLA units in the western theatre have been integrated for sharing inputs on early warning and combat readiness.
Exercise under way in Tibet since May 22
- China-Pak joint military drill in Tibet near LAC to end this week
- Exercise includes targeting warships, planes, missiles, UAVs
Chinese Air-defence system deployed
- Chinese low-to-medium altitude system (LY-80) deployed, has a range of about 150 km
- Anti-ship cruise missiles (YJ-81, YJ-82 & C-802) also being used at the drill
Integrating army, air force elements
- PLA air defence units in its Western Theatre (Tibet & Xinjiang) have formed a combined Air Defence Control System jointly with the PLA-Air Force (PLAAF)
- The PLAAF could be possibly controlling all air defence network assets along the LAC