Chinese soldiers are using virtual reality to prepare for battles in built-up areas if a video recently posted to social media has something to say.
Beijing appears to have calculated that even a muted forced annexation is likely to escalate if Taiwan perseveres while armed by the United States (US).
Here’s how the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is preparing for street fighting in Taipei in a classic urban war scenario, as if conducting military operations — when it counts.
Such a scenario would be ugly, devastating and fraught with heavy casualties on both sides, triggering its own national and international repercussions in addition to the economic impact on the entire region.
What does the video show
The short 30-second clip showed about six soldiers wearing electronic gear on their torsos, backs, arms and VR goggles around their eyes. In the closed training facility there are simple walls divided into rooms.
The soldiers keep moving and firing their simulated weapons, appearing to take over another team and a room-to-room clearance operation. Cut twice into computer perspective, the video shows the team from an elevated position, with each “player” being assigned names and codes, with the characters appearing in an animated format.
The soldiers are from a naval unit of the People’s Liberation Army (PLAN). The soldier’s perspective is not shown, making it difficult to see the exact scenario in which the VR simulation training is taking place, whether it’s an anti-terrorist operation, hostage rescue, or urban warfare.
This could protect the operational integrity of the PLA’s war plans. PLA Marines would likely be the first boots on the ground in an amphibious operation and the first to come into contact with civil-military resistance.
Part of the Taiwan Operational Exercises?
But the series of Chinese military drills around Taiwan immediately after US spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi’s visit and the drills that followed were said to be very specific. This implies that China is working to deploy Taiwanese air and ground defenses and prepare for a military fallback if diplomacy fails.
Thus, the current video can also be viewed as part of the training for a mission in Taiwan.
China appears to be preparing for the full range of military maneuvers, including encirclement, blockade, coercion, limited strikes, airstrikes, ground assaults/amphibious operations, and holding territories for political takeover/assimilation.
The measures are being implemented gradually, having thoroughly exhausted their usefulness in forcing Taiwan’s political goal of declaring itself a territory of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and abandoning political aspirations for nationality and independence.
A military operation on Taiwan is likely to be a seamless continuation of the various Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) drills and violations that take place daily, unfolding fluidly without Taiwan or the US even realizing it.
Computer games are not a waste of time!
Previous reports have shown that China is using VR and simulation training for urban warfare. In March 2021, a PLAN logistics support unit under Northern Theater Command used VR to conduct a “Wartime Fuel Support Drill”.
“The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has begun to use virtual reality (VR) technologies in training as it enables officers and soldiers to more efficiently acquire enhanced combat skills,” according to a report by the state-run Global Times.
“The availability of training locations, weather conditions or equipment consumption do not limit the VR training platform. This means we can improve training efficiency and shorten the period over which combat skills are generated,” PLA Daily quoted another official as saying.
A report on the PLA’s perspectives on urban warfare, published in the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) in April 2022, said it had worked with private companies to “enhance the realism and impact of PLA training environments.”
“The PLA’s National University of Defense Technology was also attempting to acquire a visual urban warfare simulation system starting in fall 2021, but details were limited,” the report said.
President Xi Jinping has longed to urge Chinese military personnel to undergo training in “realistic combat scenarios,” especially after the Ladakh-India border standoff in May 2020.
A group of military experts have long pointed out how advances in graphic design and software technology can allow actual combat situations to be an extension of simulation training.
“Fighter pilot training on simulators, especially new aircraft, has been common for decades. For infantry training, it should not be dismissed as it helps refine the set of mental reflexes required for quick firing and decision-making, if not the physical element,” said a retired Indian Army infantry officer with the rank of colonel. who was involved in a private company developing training simulators for law enforcement agencies.