The joint military drill between China and other members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) will boost the army's capabilities in transporting troops, launching precision strikes and working with foreign counterparts, a senior officer in the People's Liberation Army (PLA), said.
The operation, codenamed "Peace Mission 2007", involves 1,600 members of the PLA traveling by train and various military vehicles from Xinjiang in Northwest China to Chelyabinsk in the mountainous Ural region of Russia.
The distance by train is 10,300 km, while aircraft will cover just 2,700 km, Xinhua quoted Senior Colonel Lu Chuangang as saying yesterday.
This is the first time such a large military force has crossed a national border and traveled so far, Lu, who is the officer in charge of the drill, said.
All troops and equipment transported by train have now arrived in Russia, while the aviation unit consisting of 16 helicopters touched down on Sunday, Lu said.
The exercises will set new challenges for the PLA as it copes with operating not only with its foreign counterparts, but also its own diverse units, Lu said.
Along with the PLA, armies from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are taking part in the joint operation.
The drills will also require troops to work together to carry out precision strikes using the very latest technology, he said.
"We have to provide all the backup on telecommunication devices, meteorological information, logistics and even language translation," Lu said, adding that the challenges will be increased due to the drills taking place on foreign soil.
Peace Mission 2007 is the largest-ever anti-terrorism exercise involving all six SCO countries. A total of 6,000 military personnel are involved, including 4,700 Russian soldiers.
"How to deal with non-traditional threats is still new for us," Lu said, noting the drill would be good for strengthening the armies' anti-terror capabilities.
(China Daily July 31, 2007)