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PLA System of Systems Operations

Enabling joint Operations

By Kevin McCauley

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is undergoing a broad and deep transformation based on their analysis of the information technology-driven revolution in military affairs. As important as all the elements of military reform are, the most important aspect is developing a system of systems operational capability—the integration of C4ISR and forces to significantly multiply war-fighting capabilities. System of systems capability is the key enabler representing the necessary foundation for the advanced integrated joint operations capability the PLA is researching and experimenting with in exercises.

These two developments are driving modernization requirements for advanced weapons and equipment as well as many other aspects of the PLA’s transformation effort, including professional military education, joint training, military art (strategy, operational art, and tactics), command and coordination procedures, intelligence fusion, and joint logistics. Successful implementation of system of systems and integrated joint operations will transform the PLA into a modern military force, with greater agility, situational awareness, and lethality, greatly increasing combat capabilities. The current military reform effort addresses key modernization areas and plans to establish theater joint commands. A theater joint command structure will assist in accelerating overall military reforms—and movement toward an integrated joint capability in particular—as well as breaking parochial interests and institutional barriers that have slowed the pace of modernization in the past.

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