PLA Strategy in High Intensity Ground Conflicts


FairAndUnbiased

Major
Registered Member
Hearing some noise on certain other social media (I know, I know) about how it is "existential" for South Korea to join a US intervention in case Taiwan needs to be liberated.

The way the conflict plays out if often assumed to be unlikely to be in the ROK's favor, but here we can see a bit of why that will be:

Some basic info about the Korean theater:

1. Geography:

A. There are 2 routes into North Korea from China: Yalu River and Tumen River.
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with 14 opened bridges. Armored vehicle fording is easily possible across the Yalu River (
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) and Tumen River (
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).

The border region in the Tumen River (Tumen) region leads to the mountainous Rangrim range. This is closest to
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The border region in the Yalu River region (Dandong, Tonghua) leads to coastal flatlands on the Yellow River side and is nearest to the South Korean border. It is also closest to Pyongyang.

B. The Korean Peninsula divides the Yellow Sea and the Sea of Japan. China has significant military presence in the
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and turbid.

2. Strategic goals:

A. prevent targeting of DPRK strategic arsenal and ensure North Korea does not fall into a "use it or lose it" situation.
B. prevent loss of DPRK territorial integrity and sovereignty per Sino-Korean MDT.
C. prevent or defeat potential foreign intervention.
D. prevent future aggression.

3. Relevant PLA assets and missions:

A. PLAGF:
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and
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commands, 3x group armies each. Each group army for the 2 relevant theater commands consists of
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6x combined arms brigades and 6x special operations brigades: 3x heavy (armored), 1x medium (wheeled), 1x light (infantry), 1x aviation, engineering, spec ops, artillery, logistics

These are likely to act as essentially an operational reserve for the KPA, with the PLAGF stopping South Korean breakthroughs if they are able to break a KPA line and counterattacking if they stalemate against a KPA position, all the while targeting South Korean logistics points with long range fires. PLAGF brigade level long range strike:
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. 750 mms can be used to strike strategic assets like command centers, airbases, bridges, fuel depots, etc. The 300/370mms are for operational-tactical targets like forward positioned ammo dumps, fueling points, camps, etc.

B. PLAAF tactical aviation:
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include 1 air base with J-20, J-10, J-7 and J-11B, weighted towards 4th gen (J-10/11) mostly. In particular there is a base with J-20 in Liaoning which serves as immediate reaction. I believe the #1 mission will be deterring or defeating F-15K strike packages launched towards Hamgyong Province's strategic sites and Pyongyang, and preventing interference against setting up bridgeheads leading into North Korea.

C.
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Northern fleet with AOR in the Yellow Sea contains [relevant assets only, no overlap assets] 1x carrier (Liaoning), 4x 055s (!), 12x medium destroyers (8x 052D, 2x 051C, 2x 052), 4x 054A frigates, 15x 056/056A corvettes, 8x older frigates/missile boats, 7x 039 SSK, 2x 039A/B SSK, 6x 035 SSK.

I expect all the SSNs and SSBNs to disperse to Southern fleet. They are too vulnerable in the shallow Yellow Sea. But on the flip side, despite the fact that original 039s and especially 035s are old, it doesn't matter as much in the Yellow Sea as the shallowness and turbidity of the Yellow Sea make it so that older subs don't suffer as much. Even Cheonan, an ASW frigate, got sunk by a 1960's North Korean midget sub. South Korean ASW won't get a chance to do much with 16x air defense destroyers and PLAAF CAP over the Yellow Sea. Their best bet is to disperse to Sea of Japan.
 

Biscuits

Senior Member
Registered Member
South Korea is a nation who would benefit greatly from hiding away if US suddenly started a war over Taiwan Island for example.

Why? Because the SK military was built to resist a NK attack, but it would be completely helpless against the PLA, especially with KPA providing the numbers.

And if US and China started fighting over Taiwan, the lion's share of PLA ground force will not be on Taiwan due to logistics reasons. Possibly around 200 000 troops will be moved to take out separatist forces and garrison the Taiwan coastline in anticipation of US invasion.

Instead, if SK joins, the remaining troops will almost all be redirected to rush Busan.

One could then ask, is it possible for US to send the bulk of their army to SK and stalemate using their massed forces? Yes, but that requires US soldiers safely arriving in huge numbers despite SK being in range of about everything from the Chinese arsenal.
 

FairAndUnbiased

Major
Registered Member
South Korea is a nation who would benefit greatly from hiding away if US suddenly started a war over Taiwan Island for example.

Why? Because the SK military was built to resist a NK attack, but it would be completely helpless against the PLA, especially with KPA providing the numbers.

And if US and China started fighting over Taiwan, the lion's share of PLA ground force will not be on Taiwan due to logistics reasons. Possibly around 200 000 troops will be moved to take out separatist forces and garrison the Taiwan coastline in anticipation of US invasion.

Instead, if SK joins, the remaining troops will almost all be redirected to rush Busan.

One could then ask, is it possible for US to send the bulk of their army to SK and stalemate using their massed forces? Yes, but that requires US soldiers safely arriving in huge numbers despite SK being in range of about everything from the Chinese arsenal.
China may consider supplying KPA with simple stuff that allows them to properly defend themselves and to boost KPA interoperability with the PLA to safeguard Korean sovereignty.

Some cheap equipment that would greatly boost said interoperability:

1. Ruggedized radios
2. Infantry ATGMs like HJ-12 and vehicle ATGMs like HJ-9
3. Recently retired Type 89 IFV (replacing Cold War era BMP-1s)
4. Recently retired PLZ-89 122 mm SPG (replacing Cold War era
5. Recently retired Type 59D tanks and tank upgrade kits ie night vision, thermal sights, etc.
6. Recently retired S-300s, HQ-16 short/medium ranged air defense, QW-18 MANPAD
7. Quadcopter drones with integrated rangefinder
8. Beidou guided rounds
 

TK3600

Junior Member
Registered Member
China may consider supplying KPA with simple stuff that allows them to properly defend themselves and to boost KPA interoperability with the PLA to safeguard Korean sovereignty.

Some cheap equipment that would greatly boost said interoperability:

1. Ruggedized radios
2. Infantry ATGMs like HJ-12 and vehicle ATGMs like HJ-9
3. Recently retired Type 89 IFV (replacing Cold War era BMP-1s)
4. Recently retired PLZ-89 122 mm SPG (replacing Cold War era
5. Recently retired Type 59D tanks and tank upgrade kits ie night vision, thermal sights, etc.
6. Recently retired S-300s, HQ-16 short/medium ranged air defense, QW-18 MANPAD
7. Quadcopter drones with integrated rangefinder
8. Beidou guided rounds
And tbh sell them more fuel for vehicles.
 

ironborn

Junior Member
Registered Member
South Korea is a nation who would benefit greatly from hiding away if US suddenly started a war over Taiwan Island for example.

Why? Because the SK military was built to resist a NK attack, but it would be completely helpless against the PLA, especially with KPA providing the numbers.

And if US and China started fighting over Taiwan, the lion's share of PLA ground force will not be on Taiwan due to logistics reasons. Possibly around 200 000 troops will be moved to take out separatist forces and garrison the Taiwan coastline in anticipation of US invasion.

Instead, if SK joins, the remaining troops will almost all be redirected to rush Busan.

One could then ask, is it possible for US to send the bulk of their army to SK and stalemate using their massed forces? Yes, but that requires US soldiers safely arriving in huge numbers despite SK being in range of about everything from the Chinese arsenal.
I remember watching a Scott Ritter video on youtube, he mentioned that US plan for a war breakout on Korean peninsula is to have 200 ships and 5~600k troops in 6 month. In case of Taiwan, it would be 5 month 2 weeks too late.
 

FairAndUnbiased

Major
Registered Member
@sunnymaxi

current post: some thoughts on strategy.

ROK/US goals and escalation

South Korea is likely to initiate the war with the support of the US. US has operational control of ROK forces and can overwhelm the public with propaganda and create public opinion de novo. South Koreans have both real and imagined grievances with China that they believe can be settled through North Korea. As total surprise is impossible for mobilizing on a large scale, South Korea is likely to begin escalating with small provocations first to create a crisis. This can include artillery shelling of unmanned North Korean outposts, testing Hyunmoo ballistic missiles and holding large military exercises with the US, which also serve as a guise to bring US heavy armor into the Korean peninsula. They will quickly escalate tensions and may not even evacuate civilians, to guarantee the maximum strategic surprise.

ROK forces will likely undertake an attack to disable North Korean strategic arsenal in mountainous Chagang and Hamgyong provinces in the northeast concurrently with a major push. I suspect they'll try a joint strike with F-35s, Hyunmoo ballistic missiles, cruise missiles against TEL bases, S-300 sites and strategic arsenal.

Simultaneously, they'll invade across the DMZ with armor and mechanized infantry
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with army aviation and rocket artillery targeting of North Korean fixed artillery sites. My guess is that USFK are going to act more like a mobile reserve, command unit and barrier troops if things start getting bad.

The goal would be to 1. neutralize DPRK strategic arsenal 2. neutralize DPRK fixed/towed artillery along the DMZ to minimize immediate casualties 3. roll up the DMZ along the Yellow Sea to flank KPA defensive positions and encircle them to open a path towards Pyongyang.

PRC/DPRK preparation

PLA and KPA will likely be on heightened alert. Northern and central theater commands should be alerted to begin massing troops along the Yalu River and parts of the Tumen River, and a joint PLA-KPA operations center should be set up on the Chinese side of the border.
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which can detect both missile launches and incoming bombers. When the large scale ROK military exercises begin, PLA needs to begin transferring ATGMs, SPGs, observation drones and MANPADs to KPA. The key will be for KPA to form a defensive line that can blunt the ROK/USFK advance until the PLAGF and KPA reserves arrive to relieve them. Infantry with ATGMs and MANPADs along with artillery with observation drones are highly effective in defending.

The most important part will be avoiding a breakthrough. North Korea is filled with mountainous cover, but the DMZ is flat.

Simultaneously, PLAN and KPN should begin deploying conventional subs in the shallow Yellow Sea while dispersing PLAN SSNs to the South China Sea. Enemy surface ships are unlikely to remain in the Yellow Sea as it is shallow, turbid, noisy, and even a 1960's midget sub is a threat (see sinking of the Cheonan). However you don't want to risk ROKN SSKs sinking an SSN, especially because they're vulnerable in shallow littorals.

Key chokepoints will be the Tsushima Strait and the approach between Okinawa and Pusan. It will be imperative to establish surveillance and strike targeting capabilities here to prevent reinforcement by USFJ.
 

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