The Chinese People Liberation Army (PLA) conducted a wartime drone supply-delivery drill in the Tibetan plateau, at an altitude of 4,500 meters, an exercise which was supervised by the PLA Army’s Logistics Department and the PLA Tibet Military Command’s Support Department recently.
China Military Online reported the exercise as part of the PLA’s war planning initiatives, aims to ensure unhindered supply of ammunition and military equipment irrespective of the conditions to the soldiers.
“The front is blocked by ‘enemy’ fire, and the vehicles and personnel of the transportation unit have much trouble in marching on. The drone delivery unit must act quickly to deliver supplies to the designated area!”
As part of the exercise, the drone delivery unit quickly acted upon an order, assembling and debugging nine drones, which were then flown to the area where the transportation unit was blocked.
PLA Tibet Military Command, which has a dedicated transportation unit, swiftly transported food supplies, drinking water, medicine and other urgently needed materials, loading them as payloads on the autonomous drones, which took off in a battle group successively.
The CMO quoted the chief of the PLA’s Logistic Department, who said the flight status of the drone is not always stable due to the influence of high altitude and bad weather.
“The operators need to make a comprehensive judgment on the terrain, wind speed, temperature and other factors, to ensure the drones’ safe landing at the predetermined area,” he added.
As the Chinese state-based Global Times reported in September this year, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Tibet Military Command recently adopted UAVs to provide logistics support for its troops that are currently stationed at an elevation of 4,500 meters completing exercise drills.
The experts claim that PLA’s deployment of such innovative technologies showcases its new modernized logistics support means while also exhibiting that China is prepared for potential conflict while engaging in negotiations with India.
The China Central Television released a video in September showing the PLA logistics soldiers packing the food, water and medicine, before putting them into several unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which then deliver the payloads to the frontline soldiers, in areas where the access was blocked by terrain or other conditions.
The country has been conducting such drills ever since it was locked in a conflict with the Indian side and believes such logistics support would be vital for the soldiers during a military conflict.
Song Zhongping, a military expert, quoted by GT even said that such logistics are the key for soldiers’ performance in military conflicts, and logistics support can be challenging in complex plateau areas. Drones can be employed to quickly deliver supplies at designated points, improving the PLA’s combat effectiveness, he said.
The use of UAVs in military conflicts is getting increasingly common, not just in combat missions, but logistics support too, and any country that masters the UAV tech has high chances of commanding the edge in a battle. The use of UAVs is an important embodiment of future unmanned warfare.
Logistics remains an important part of any military since the supply of ammunition, food, and fuel must remain consistent on the battlefield. The frontline warfighters need at least 2-3 soldiers supporting them with logistics, which is called the tooth-to-tail ratio — the amount of trigger pullers versus logistics and supply personnel.
When the US invaded Iraq, its Army had a functional on-the-ground ratio of 1 combat to 2.5 support, while that number in WWI was closer to 2 combat versus 1 support. And transporting supplies to the frontline when the ground and aerial gunfire is raging is a dangerous task.
The armies around the world are working to reduce the number of humans required to do the job, and therefore, there has been unprecedented research and development in autonomous systems that can be employed for such tasks.
And China seems to be ahead of the world in the development of cutting-edge UAVs, as the reports suggest. Its military seems to be investing and paying attention to all aspects of a war, which makes its chance of winning any future war easier.