Tactical System Warfare Principles

Chinese Tactics > PART ONE: People’s Liberation Army Forces > Chapter 4: Tactical System Warfare > Tactical System Warfare Principles


 4-1. Land warfare traditionally involves imposing one’s will upon an uncooperative opponent by the use of direct lethal attack or threat of attack. Maneuver is the process by which one puts oneself in an advantageous position to conduct an attack. Thus, ground combat components traditionally maneuver with the objective of physically isolating their opponents, then defeating them in detail; creating numerical or firepower advantages at key positions on the battlefield; or deceiving opponents into believing their position to be hopeless or otherwise indefensible. The PLAA still views land warfare through this lens, but it sees attacks that do not directly target one’s opponent with the threat of physical danger as equal to or more important than direct lethal attacks on the modern battlefield. For example, an opponent may be isolated by disabling network or communications connectivity, rather than by being physically surrounded and cut off. An opponent may believe its position untenable by having vulnerable nodes of its systems rendered ineffective, rather than having the entire system destroyed. An opponent may view continued resistance as futile—not because of the direct threat of physical force—but because it has been deceived into thinking its situation is hopeless. In other words, system warfare takes the basic principles outlined by Sun Tzu and Mao and applies them to conflict utilizing modern, high-technology weapons systems that are manned and operated by professional soldiers.

 4-2. The PLA describes system warfare using several different official names, including system destruction warfare and system confrontation. All of these terms refer to the same basic concept: a type of conflict wherein systems clash with one another in an attempt to neutralize, destroy, or offset key capabilities and thus grant one side a decisive advantage. System warfare differs from traditional Western military thinking in that it does not necessarily consider the human doing the fighting as the most important element of a combat system. Humans are viewed as subcomponents of a system of systems, to be assessed and targeted much as any other subcomponent. System warfare represents Military Thought supporting the Defense Theory and Defense Doctrine concepts within People’s War in Conditions of Informationization. (See chapter 1 for more information on Defense Theory and Defense Doctrine.) The backbone of the system of systems is the network; the importance of this backbone in-turn gave rise to the concept of network-centric warfare.

4-3. The system warfare concept consists of two basic ideas: creating purpose-built operational systems that combine key capabilities under a single command, and the use of these operational systems to asymmetrically target and exploit vulnerable components of an opponent’s system. If done effectively, this method will render the opponent’s key systems ineffective or otherwise unable to function. The PLA believes that by effectively destroying, isolating, neutralizing, or offsetting key capabilities, the enemy’s will or ability to resist will degrade and victory will be achieved. Building operational systems is similar to creating task forces, but broader in scope, attempting to create a comprehensive suite of capabilities under a single command. An operational system consists of a number of groups—subordinate entities that are custom-built for a specific mission, task, or purpose. Virtually every battlefield function is represented by one or more groups; this publication discusses only the most significant groups as employed by tacticallevel units.

4-4. At the tactical level, operational groups are also referred to as combat teams or combat groups. While the PLAA stresses a modular approach to building operational systems, it also recognizes that the less radical the reorganization, the more cohesive a unit will be. The combined arms battalion (CA-BN) structure is designed to reflect this. It is the basic building block of the tactical operational system, and it is intended to be employed in something close to its organic or peacetime configuration. Conversely, the combined arms brigade (CA-BDE) is intended to be easily augmented or task-organized as conditions dictate, flexibly employing a variety of subordinate CA-BNs, supporting battalions, or other nonorganic capabilities.


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