China has added a fifth military force, a near-space command equipped with a professional hypersonic weapons force that reports directly to the highest level of the military. While the exact establishment date remains unclear, a recently published paper by researchers from the National University of Defence Technology sheds light on the force’s objectives and capabilities.
The near-space command, considered a world first, joins the existing branches of the People’s Liberation Army – the army, air force, navy, and rocket branches. The researchers highlight the rapid development of the near-space combat force, emphasizing the need for deepened understanding and standardization of combat operations. The command’s primary focus is on near-space, a contested zone crucial for determining the outcome of future battles.
Operating in this special battlefield, the near-space force aims to conduct merciless attacks on critical targets worldwide using hypersonic weapons. The force also deploys automated drones and spy balloons for high-altitude surveillance. Recognizing the diplomatic sensitivity of actions in near-space, the researchers advocate for a hierarchical adjustment of command and control powers to avoid political and diplomatic issues.
Hypersonic weapons, known for their unstoppable speed and maneuvering capabilities, pose challenges in international relations. The near-space force, equipped with hypersonic weapons, spy balloons, solar-powered drones, and other supporting equipment, is poised to play a pivotal role in conflicts. Its duty includes targeting heavily protected critical military assets and infrastructure, disrupting the enemy’s war machine in the early stages of a conflict.
The paper outlines the near-space force’s war room, describing the tension and coordination required for effective decision-making. With senior officials potentially issuing tactical orders beyond their responsibilities, the commanders must possess a deep understanding of international strategic situations and national policies.
While the near-space force faces the risk of being targeted by potential adversaries, the researchers stress its preparedness for complex and difficult situations with a range of backup plans. The success of the force relies on innovative strategies, combat tactics, and coordination with other branches of the People’s Liberation Army.
As China continues to invest in advanced military capabilities, the establishment of the near-space force underscores the nation’s commitment to maintaining a formidable presence in emerging strategic domains.