Report - Managing the Atom Project, Belfer Center

The Strategic Postures of China and India: A Visual Guide

| March 2020

Policy prescriptions following from this analysis have been published in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. See Frank O'Donnell and Alexander K. Bollfrass, "India is Building Nuclear Submarines and ICBMs. That’s a $14 Billion Mistake,"  Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, February 26, 2020.


Downloads and Resources:

Tables and maps embedded in full below.


Background

Fueled by aggressive rhetoric from both capitals, Indian and Chinese ground forces engaged in a standoff between June and August 2017. The Doklam crisis, as it became known, stimulated introspection among officials and experts in both states about the future of their relationship. Politically, both strategic communities largely concluded that the peaceful resolution of border disputes is now less likely, forecasting more rivalry than cooperation. Militarily, Indian discussions on the strength of its military position against China in their disputed ground frontier areas have converged on the view that China holds the conventional and nuclear edge over India in this domain.1

Based on our analysis of data on the location and capabilities of Indian and Chinese strategic forces and related military units, we conclude that this assessment of the balance of forces may be mistaken and a poor guide for Indian security and procurement policies. We recommend that instead of investing in new nuclear weapons platforms that our analysis suggests are not likely to be required to deter China, New Delhi should improve the survivability of its existing forces and fill the gap in global arms control leadership with an initiative on restraint and transparency.

China and India’s deliberately opaque strategic postures make objective assessments difficult. To overcome that problem, this brief introduces a new data compilation, consisting of a variety of published intelligence documents, private documents sourced from regional states, and interviews with experts based in China, India, and the United States. This data is combined with open-source force estimates to provide the most comprehensive public assessment of the location and capabilities of Chinese and Indian strategic forces. The appendix provides a link to an interactive map of Chinese and Indian nuclear and conventional air and ground forces, including descriptions of some simplifications and estimates necessary to display the forces on a map. Our analysis focuses on strategic military strike concentrations as they are postured against one other, excluding border patrol forces, as of January 2018. This makes it possible to examine the strengths and weaknesses of each side’s forces.

What does this data tell us? We assess that India has key under-appreciated conventional advantages that reduce its vulnerability to Chinese threats and attacks. India appears to have cause for greater confidence in its military position against China than is typically acknowledged in Indian debates, providing the country an opportunity for leadership in international efforts toward nuclear transparency and restraint.      

Indian strategists have not focused on this opportunity, in part because they draw pessimistic conclusions regarding China. For example, one Indian expert has observed that “India’s ground force posture and strength is not really comparable to that of China in their border regions. China has better military infrastructure, capabilities, and logistics.”2 A former commander of the Indian Army Northern and Central commands, which are tasked with defense against China, wrote during the Doklam standoff that he expected the episode to end in a barrage of Chinese missile strikes to expel Indian forces from the area and settle the dispute on Chinese terms.3

Even India’s comparative optimists, a minority, do not sound hopeful. A retired Indian Army brigadier close to internal discussions on China policy has observed that “even as conventional asymmetry prevails, it is being largely undermined by Indian strides in infrastructural build up, force modernisation and new raisings.”4

The next sections assess the nuclear forces India and China have arrayed against each other, followed by conventional forces relevant to a potential conflict.

 

China’s Nuclear Strike Forces and Ranges

Chinese nuclear forces comprise land- and sea-based ballistic missiles and aircraft that may emerge as nuclear bombers.5 The land- and sea-based elements are operated by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Rocket Force, which executes nuclear strike orders issued by the Central Military Commission under Xi Jinping’s chairmanship.

Sea-based missiles do not have a fixed location. However, China’s land-based missile bases can be geo-located. Including only the nuclear forces and locations most relevant to targeting India, the map below shows that the bases are concentrated in the far north, with three DF-21 bases in the country’s south.6 

In all, an estimated 104 Chinese missiles could strike all or parts of India. These include about a dozen DF-31A and six to twelve DF-31 missiles capable of reaching all Indian mainland targets. Another dozen DF-21s hold New Delhi at risk. The remaining missiles can target sections of India’s northeast and east coast.7 Moreover, as China deploys more road-mobile missiles over time, it will become easier to move further missiles from China’s interior to new survivable positions within range of India.

Figure 1: Map of China’s Nuclear Strike Range

New China Nuclear Strike Range Map.png

Map Legend

Missile Type

Rocket Force Base and Location8

Color (of circle)

Approx. Missile Range (miles)

DF-31A

Base 56: Beidao/Tawanli, Gansu Province

Yellow

6,830

DF-21, DF-31

Base 56: Xining, Qinghai Province

Bright Green

1,335 (DF-21)
4,350 (DF-31)

DF-21, DF-31

Base 56: Delingha, Qinghai Province

Red

1,335 (DF-21)
4,350 (DF-31)

DF-21

Base 56: Liuqingkou, Qinghai Province

Black

1,335

DF-21

Base 56: Korla, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region

White

1,335

DF-21

Base 53: Jianshui, Yunnan Province

Blue

1,335

DF-21

Base 53: Chuxiong, Yunnan Province

Dark Green

1,335

 

 

India’s Nuclear Strike Forces and Ranges

Indian nuclear weapons stand ready for delivery by bombers and land-based missiles.9  As in China, nuclear warheads are held at separate locations from delivery vehicles in peacetime, although there are reports of pre-mating of some Indian missiles to warheads through canisterization.10 A nuclear strike order would be issued by the Political Council of the Nuclear Command Authority (NCA) and executed through the NCA Executive Council and military Strategic Forces Command.11

India’s professed goal has always been to field a credible second-strike capability. This assured retaliation doctrine depends on the creation of sufficient doubt in the adversary’s calculus that a disarming first strike would succeed.

India seeks to ensure the survivability of its forces through adequate force dispersal, distributing its forces across several bases and along several vectors (air, land, and sea), while seeking to ensure the secrecy of their locations.12 This existing approach probably does create doubt in Chinese strategic planning that it could militarily entirely erase India’s ability to reach Chinese targets.

Unsurprisingly, the bulk of India’s missile forces are located closer to Pakistan than China.13 We estimate that around ten Agni-III launchers can reach the entire Chinese mainland. Another eight Agni-II launchers could reach central Chinese targets. An estimated two squadrons of Jaguar IS and one squadron of Mirage 2000H fighters, totaling around 51 aircraft, are assessed to be tasked with nuclear missions.14 These aircraft could most likely reach Tibetan airspace equipped with nuclear gravity bombs. However, it is near certain that they would be identified and tracked by air defenses before proceeding deeper into China from Tibet. The potential early surprise achievable in Tibet-centric missions would no longer be possible for missions elsewhere in China, as Chinese air defenses would be alerted in the additional time necessary for Indian aircraft to transit Tibet.

Figure 2: Map of India’s Nuclear Strike Range

New Indian Nuclear Strike Force Map.png

Map Legend15

Nuclear Delivery Vehicle Type

Location

Color (of circle)

Approx. Range (miles)

Agni-III

Assam State

Yellow

1,990

Agni-II

Assam State

Red

1,240

Mirage 2000H fighters, with nuclear gravity bombs

Gwalior AFS, Madhya Pradesh State

Green

920

Jaguar IS fighters, with nuclear gravity bombs

Ambala AFS, Haryana State

Pink

560

Jaguar IS fighters, with nuclear gravity bombs

Gorakhpur AFS, Uttar Pradesh State

Blue

560

 

 

The Sino-Indian Conventional Balance

We now turn to the effect of conventional forces on this overall strategic balance. Our analysis suggests that India’s defense position is more secure than is sometimes argued. 

 

Indian conventional forces

The Indian Army (IA) divides its ground and air strike forces facing China into Northern, Central and Eastern Commands. The Air Force is organized into Western, Central and Eastern Air Commands.16 The total available Army strike forces near China’s border areas are assessed to be around 225,000 personnel. This incorporates the roughly 3,000 personnel attached to a T-72 tank brigade stationed in Ladakh and the estimated 1,000 personnel attached to a Brahmos cruise missile regiment in Arunachal Pradesh. For the Army, this total near China’s border areas is divided into about 34,000 troops in the Northern Command; 15,500 troops in the Central Command; and 175,500 troops in the Eastern Command.17 

The Indian Air Force (IAF) has an estimated 270 fighters and 68 ground attack aircraft across its three China-facing commands.18 It is also expanding its network of Advanced Landing Grounds (ALGs), which constitute small air bases in forward locations to provide staging grounds and logistics hubs for aircraft strike missions.19 In the Western Air Command, the IAF possesses around 75 fighters and 34 ground attack aircraft, besides 5 ALGs close to Chinese Tibetan areas. The Central Air Command features around 94 fighters, 34 ground attack aircraft, and one ALG. The Eastern Air Command hosts around 101 fighters and 9 ALGs. Crucially, the IA and IAF forces described above are all permanently close to China’s border, shortening their mobilization time and limiting the prospects of a successful Chinese cross-border advance.

 

Chinese conventional forces

We estimate a total of 200,00-230,000 Chinese ground forces under the Western Theater Command, and Tibet and Xinjiang Military Districts. 20 However, this apparent numerical near-equivalence with that of Indian regional ground forces is misleading. Even in a war with India, a significant proportion of these forces will be unavailable, reserved either for Russian taskings or for countering insurrection in Xinjiang and Tibet. The majority of forces are located further from the Indian border, posing a striking contrast with the majority of forward-deployed Indian forces with a single China defense mission.

The new joint Western Theater Command is estimated to hold around 90,000-120,000 troops, principally divided into the 76th and 77th Group Armies. These Group Armies are headquartered toward the interior of Western China, in Chongqing and Baoji respectively.21 Because of ongoing unrest in Tibet and Xinjiang, the Western Theater Command’s ground operational authority does not extend to these regions. Instead, a special PLA Army-directed Military District (MD) has been created for each of these regions.22 In Tibet, the region closest to Indian border areas, the PLA presence is judged to number just 40,000 troops. More numerous forces are located in the Xinjiang region north of Tibet, totaling around 70,000.23 This means that China is regularly operating with a permanent Indian conventional force advantage along its border areas. In the event of a major standoff or conflict with India, it would have to rely upon mobilization primarily from Xinjiang and secondarily from the Western Theater Command forces deeper in China’s interior. By contrast, Indian forces are already largely in position.  

The PLA Air Force (PLAAF) also suffers from a numerical disparity to the IAF in the border region. Unlike the tripartite organizational division of Chinese ground forces facing India, the Western Theater Command has assumed control of all regional strike aircraft.24 In total, this amounts to around 157 fighters and a varied drone armory. This includes an estimated 20 GJ-1/WD-1K precision strike UAVs, 12 WD-1 ground attack and reconnaissance UAVs, 12 WD-1 precision strike UAVs, and 8 EA-03 reconnaissance and electronic warfare UAVs.25 A proportion of these are reserved for Russia-centric missions. By comparison, as noted earlier, the Indian Eastern Air Command can field around 101 fighters against China alone. China also uses eight airbases and airfields relevant to India strike missions, although a majority are civilian airports that can be commandeered in wartime.26

Other comparative weaknesses permeate the PLAAF’s posture against India. On a strict comparison of available 4th generation fighters, authoritative assessments hold that China’s J-10 fighter is technically comparable to India’s Mirage-2000, and that the Indian Su-30MKI is superior to all theater Chinese fighters, including the additional J-11 and Su-27 models.27 China hosts a total of around 101 4th-generation fighters in the theater, of which a proportion must be retained for Russian defense, while India has around 122 of its comparable models, solely directed at China.

The high altitude of Chinese air bases in Tibet and Xinjiang, plus the generally difficult geographic and weather conditions of the region, means that Chinese fighters are limited to carrying around half their design payload and fuel. In-flight refueling would be required for PLAAF forces to maximize their strike capacity.28 China had only inducted 15 such tanker aircraft nationally as of 2017, meaning only a handful of its forces will benefit from this solution.29 Against these underpowered fighters, IAF forces will launch from bases and airfields unaffected by these geographic conditions, with maximum payload and fuel capabilities.30

The most significant PLAAF forward air bases and airfields near Indian border areas—which will be pivotal in combat operations—are located at Hotan, Lhasa/Gonggar, Ngari-Gunsa, and Xigaze. Each hosts regular PLAAF detachments, and these are the nearest facilities to Indian targets in Kashmir, northern India, and northeast India.31 They are vulnerable to a dedicated Indian offensive. Ngari-Gunsa and Xigaze reportedly have no hardened shelters or blast pens for their aircraft, which sit in the open.32 Lhasa/Gonggar has recently developed hardened shelters able to protect up to 36 aircraft, while Hotan reportedly hosts “two aircraft shelters” of unknown capacity.33 An Indian early initiative to destroy or incapacitate these four bases—and achieve air superiority over them—would compel China to rely more upon aircraft from its rear-area bases, exacerbating its limited fuel and payload problems. Moreover, China lacks the redundancy and related force survivability compared to India in their comparative numbers of regional air bases. In sum, India has a stronger regional air position, with “a large number of airfields in the east and west, so even if some airfields are down, operations can continue from other locations.”34

PLAAF training and experience shortcomings that are not shared by the IAF amplify China’s air disadvantage.35 Recent PLAAF exercises with unscripted scenarios have found that pilots are excessively reliant upon ground control for tactical direction. In unanticipated combat scenarios, this dependence on explicit control tower guidance becomes extreme, while “ground commands” are simultaneously often unable “to keep up with the complex and changeable air situation.”36 This suggests that PLAAF combat proficiency may be significantly weaker than often estimated.

A comprehensive study found that scenarios with combat conditions where “some of the key first-line airfields were destroyed” would be especially concerning for Chinese strategists.37 Progressive base hardening in the eastern US-facing PLAAF facilities has reduced this risk in that area.38 A lack of similar measures in the India-facing west suggests that Indian destruction or temporary incapacitation of some of the four above air bases would further exacerbate these PLAAF operational inflexibilities and weaknesses. By contrast, recent conflicts with Pakistan give the current IAF a level of institutional experience in actual networked combat.

Recognizing this dilemma, instead of a regional aircraft offensive, Chinese strategic planners envision early long-range missile strikes against Indian air bases in the event of conflict. However, India benefits from the greater number and redundancy of regional air bases, and the daunting number of Chinese missiles that would be required to truly incapacitate relevant IAF forces. A former IAF official, referring to the high number of disparate targets per air base, the requirement for at least two missiles per target, and the ability of base officials to repave the blast crater with quick-drying concrete within six hours, has articulated the operational problem:

“To keep one airfield shut for 24 hours, the PLAAF will require 220 ballistic missiles. This will not make any difference to IAF operations in the east or in the west since the IAF has a large number of other operational airfields to operate from. If the PLAAF attacks just three airfields, it will require 660 ballistic missiles per day for attacking the runway and taxi track alone. China’s stock of 1,000-1,200 MRBMs/SRBMs will be over in less than two days when attacking just three airfields, with no other major target systems like C2 centres or air defence units being addressed.”39

This analysis was authored before India began its process of integrating runway replacement fiberglass mats into its base defense systems, meaning it was likely calculated upon a previous “labour-intensive,” civilian-heavy method of runway repaving, as described by a former Indian Air Marshal.40 However, India is presently inducting these fiberglass mats and associated paving equipment, which will further reduce its runway reconstitution timeframe.41 It is therefore unlikely that the numerous PLAAF disadvantages detailed above can be overcome by China’s superior missile forces. This is critical beyond the air competition itself: “In any India-China conflict, the PLA cannot launch an attack without the support of the PLAAF.”42

To address its force shortfalls in the event of war, China could surge air and ground forces from its interior toward the border. However, what our analysis suggests is that the IAF’s superiority would mean that critical logistical routes—such as air bases and military road and rail links—could be cut by bombing or standoff missile strikes, limiting the extent to which China’s position could be reinforced.43 Such a Chinese surge would also attract attention from the United States, which would alert India and enable it to counter-mobilize its own additional forces from its interior.

Ammunition shortfalls have been a limiting factor for Indian conventional force operations in the past, especially for the Indian Army. India’s official audit agency assessed in 2016 that India lacked sufficient reserves in around 85 out of 170 critical ammunition categories for a scenario of an intense 10-day war.44 Since then, New Delhi has bolstered its stockpiles, and continues to reduce this operational constraint.45

China could permanently station forces similar to or larger than India’s nearer to the border. An Indian counter-buildup would surely follow. In total, India is in a stronger conventional position vis-à-vis China than much of the analysis on this topic concludes.

 


Strategic Postures

[Note 46]

Note: Due to the available data, some of these force locations are rough estimates, placed at the level of the town or city in which they are reportedly based, rather than exact coordinates. This is most common for Chinese and some Indian ground force locations, and Indian nuclear missile locations. In addition, some Chinese ground locations have been slightly spaced apart to prevent their signposts being stacked entirely on top of each other.This map focuses on principal strike forces. As such, local border patrol and armed police forces, and air force bases and squadrons containing only helicopters, have been excluded (with the exception of Tawang Advanced Landing Ground, which could be expanded in the future).

 

Ground Forces: China

Icon

Name

Parent Command

Force Type

Force Numbers

Location

52nd Mountain Infantry Brigade HQ

Tibet Military District (MD)

Infantry Brigade

~ 4,600 (total)

Link

Unit 77675, 52nd Mountain Infantry Brigade

Tibet MD

Infantry Battalion

~ 700

Link

Unit 77678, Artillery Regiment, 52nd Mountain Infantry Brigade

Tibet MD

Artillery Regiment

~ 1,100

Link

1st Battalion, 52nd Mountain Infantry Brigade

Tibet MD

Infantry Battalion

~ 700

Link

2nd Battalion, 52nd Mountain Infantry Brigade

Tibet MD

Infantry Battalion

~ 700

Link

3rd Battalion, 52nd Mountain Infantry Brigade

Tibet MD

Infantry Battalion

~ 700

Link

4th Battalion, 52nd Mountain Infantry Brigade

Tibet MD

Infantry Battalion

~ 700

Link

53rd Mountain Infantry Brigade HQ

Tibet MD

Infantry Brigade

~ 4,600 (total)

Link

Unit 77680, 53rd Mountain Infantry Brigade

Tibet MD

Infantry Battalion

~ 700

Link

Artillery Regiment, Unit 77683, 53rd Mountain Infantry Brigade

Tibet MD

Artillery Regiment

~ 1,100

Link

1st Battalion, 53rd Mountain Infantry Brigade

Tibet MD

Infantry Battalion

~ 700

Link

2nd Battalion, 53rd Mountain Infantry Brigade

Tibet MD

Infantry Battalion

~ 700

Link

3rd Battalion, 53rd Mountain Infantry Brigade

Tibet MD

Infantry Battalion

~ 700

Link

4th Battalion, 53rd Mountain Infantry Brigade

Tibet MD

Infantry Battalion

~ 700

Link

54th Mechanized Infantry Brigade

Tibet MD

Infantry Brigade

~ 3,000

Link

308th Artillery Brigade

Tibet MD

Artillery Brigade

~ 3,000

Link

Gyantse County 1st Independent Battalion, Unit 77655 (India and Bhutan Borders) 

Tibet MD

Infantry Battalion

~ 700

Link

Gangba County 2nd Independent Battalion, Unit 77656 (India Border)

Tibet MD

Infantry Battalion

~ 700

Link

Medog County 3rd Independent Battalion

Tibet MD

Infantry Battalion

~ 700

Link

Milin 4th Independent Battalion

Tibet MD

Infantry Battalion

~ 700

Link

Luoza County 5th Independent Battalion (Bhutan Border)

Tibet MD

Infantry Battalion

~ 700

Link

1st Border Defense Regiment, Unit 77629 (India and Bhutan Borders)

Tibet MD

Infantry Regiment

~ 2,800

Link

2nd Border Defense Regiment, Unit 77635 (India and Bhutan Borders)

Tibet MD

Infantry Regiment

~ 2,800

Link

3rd Border Defense Regiment, Unit 77639 (India and Nepal Borders)

Tibet MD

Infantry Regiment

~ 2,800

Link

4th Border Defense Regiment, Unit-77643 (India Border)

Tibet MD

Infantry Regiment

~ 2,800

Link

5th Border Defense Regiment, Unit 77646 (Nepal Border)

Tibet MD

Infantry Regiment

~ 2,800

Link

6th Border Defense Regiment, Unit-77649 (India and Bhutan Borders)

Tibet MD

Infantry Regiment

~ 2,800

Link

Nathu La Outpost, 6th Border Defense Regiment

Tibet MD

N/A

?

Link

9th Border Defense Regiment

Tibet MD

Infantry Regiment

~ 2,800

Link

Total Ground Forces: Tibet Military District

~ 40,000

 

 

Icon

Name

Parent Command

Force Type

Force Numbers

Location

6th Mechanized Infantry Division

Xinjiang MD

Infantry Division

~ 13,000 total

Link

6th Armor Regiment

Xinjiang MD

Armor Regiment

~ 1,200

Link

17th Infantry Regiment

Xinjiang MD

Infantry Regiment

~ 2,800

Link

18th Infantry Regiment

Xinjiang MD

Infantry Regiment

~ 2,800

Link

Artillery Regiment

Xinjiang MD

Artillery Regiment

~1,100

Link

Air Defense Regiment

Xinjiang MD

Air Defense Regiment

~ 1,000

Link

4th Motorized Infantry Division

Xinjiang MD

Infantry Division

~ 13,000

Link

8th Motorized Infantry Division

Xinjiang MD

Infantry Division

~ 13,000

Link

2nd Artillery Brigade

Xinjiang MD

Artillery Brigade

~ 3,000

Link

11th Motorized Infantry Division

Xinjiang MD

Infantry Division

~ 13,000

Link

High-Powered Artillery Brigade

Xinjiang MD

Artillery Brigade

~ 3,000

Link

Special Operations Force Brigade

Xinjiang MD

Special Operations Force Brigade

~ 500

Link

1st Independent Regiment

Xinjiang MD

Infantry Regiment

~ 2,800

Link

2nd Independent Regiment

Xinjiang MD

Infantry Regiment

~ 2,800

Link

12th Border Defense Regiment

Xinjiang MD

Infantry Regiment

~ 2,800

Link

13th Border Defense Regiment

Xinjiang MD

Infantry Regiment

~ 2,800

Link

Total Ground Forces: Xinjiang Military District

~ 70,000

 

 

Icon

Name

Parent Command

Force Type

Force Numbers

Location

76th Group Army

Western Theater Command

Group Army

~ 45,000-60,000 total, including 17th, 56th, 62nd, 149th, and 182nd Combined Arms Brigades, 77th Special Operations Forces Brigade, Engineer Brigade, Army Aviation Brigade, and Support Service Brigade.

Link

Artillery Brigade, 76th Group Army

Western Theater Command

Artillery Brigade

~ 3,000

Link

Air Defense Brigade, 76th Group Army

Western Theater Command

Air Defense Brigade

~ 2,500

Link

12th Armor Brigade,
76
th Group Army

Western Theater Command

Armor Brigade

~ 5,000

Link

77th Group Army

Western Theater Command

Group Army

~ 45,000-60,000 total, including 39th, 40th, 55th, 139th, 150th, and 181st Combined Arms Brigades, Army Aviation Brigade, Engineer Brigade, and Service Support Brigade.

Link

Artillery Brigade,
77
th Group Army

Western Theater Command

Artillery Brigade

~ 3,000

Link

Air Defense Brigade,
77
th Group Army

Western Theater Command

Air Defense Brigade

~ 2,500

Link

Special Operations Forces Brigade,
77
th Group Army

Western Theater Command

Special Operations Forces Brigade

~ 500

Link

Total Ground Forces: Western Theater Command

~ 90,000–120,000

 

 

Total Ground Forces: Western Theater Command and Tibet and Xinjiang Military Districts

~ 200,000–230,000

 

Ground Forces: India

Icon

Name

Parent Command

Force Type

Force Numbers

Location

T-72 Tank Brigade

Army Northern Command

Tank Formation

Up to 150 tanks,~ 3,000 personnel

Link

8th Mountain Division

Army Northern Command

Infantry Division

~ 15,500

Link

3rd Infantry Division

Army Northern Command

Infantry Division

~ 15,500

Link

Total Ground Forces: Army Northern Command

~ 34,000 including independent tank formation

 

 

Icon

Name

Parent Command

Force Type

Force Numbers

Location

6th Mountain Division

Army Central Command

Infantry Division

~ 15,500

Link

Total Ground Forces: Army Central Command

~ 15,500

 

 

Icon

Name

Parent Command

Force Type

Force Numbers

Location

17th Mountain Strike Corps

Army Eastern Command

Mechanized Infantry Corps

~ 35,000

Link

17th Mountain Division

Army Eastern Command

Infantry Division

~ 15,500

Link

27th Mountain Division

Army Eastern Command

Infantry Division

~ 15,500

Link

20th Mountain Division

Army Eastern Command

Infantry Division

~ 15,500

Link

5th Mountain Division

Army Eastern Command

Infantry Division

~ 15,500

Link

2nd Mountain Division

Army Eastern Command

Infantry Division

~ 15,500

Link

71st Mountain Division

Army Eastern Command

Infantry Division

~ 15,500

Link

21st Mountain Division

Army Eastern Command

Infantry Division

~ 15,500

Link

56th Mountain Division

Army Eastern Command

Infantry Division

~ 15,500

Link

57th Mountain Division

Army Eastern Command

Infantry Division

~ 15,500

Link

Brahmos Missile Regiment

Army Eastern Command

Brahmos Missile Regiment

~ 100 Brahmos Missiles

Link

Total Ground Forces: Army Eastern Command

~175,500
including Brahmos missile regiment

 

Total Ground Forces: Army Northern, Central and Eastern Commands

~ 225,000 including independent T-72 tank brigade and Brahmos missile regiment

 

Ground Forces: Comparison Table

 

China

India

Total Ground Forces

~204,000–234,000

~225,000 including independent T-72 tank brigade and Brahmos missile regiment

 

Air Forces: China

[Note 47]

Icon

Name

Parent Command

Force Numbers

Location

109th Air Brigade

Western Theater Command

~ 16 x J-8F Fighters,
~16 J-8H Fighters

Link

110th Air Brigade

Western Theater Command

~ 24 x JH-7A Fighters

Link

111th Air Brigade

Western Theater Command

~ 16 x J-11A Fighters,
~ 16 x J-11BS Fighters,
~ 2 Su-27UBK Fighters

Link

112th Air Brigade

Western Theater Command

~ 32 x J-7IIM Fighters

Link

16th Air Brigade

Western Theater Command

~ 16 J-11 Fighters,
~ 16 x J-11BS Fighters,
~ 3 Su-27UBK Fighters

Link

178th UAV Brigade

Western Theater Command

~ 20 x GJ-1/WD-1K precision strike UAVs,
12 x WD-1 ground attack and reconnaissance UAVs,
12 x WD-1 precision strike UAVs,
~ 8 EA-03 reconnaisance and EW UAVs

Link

Xigaze Airfield

Western Theater Command

Used for forward detachments of J-10, J-11 fighters EA-03 (UAV)s.

Link

Lhasa/Gonggar Airfield

Western Theater Command

Used for forward detachments for J-10, J-11, Su-27UBK, Su-27SK fighters and BZK-05 UAVs

Link

Lingzhi Airfield

Western Theater Command

N/A

Link

Dangxiong Airfield

Western Theater Command

N/A

Link

Qamdo/Pangta/

Bangda Airfield

Western Theater Command

N/A

Link

Nagqu Airfield

Western Theater Command

N/A

Link

Ngari Gunsa Airfield

Western Theater Command

Used for forward detachments of J-11, Su-27UBK, Su-27SK

Link

Hotan Airfield

Western Theater Command

Used for forward detachments of J-10 and J-11 fighters.

Link

Total Air Forces

~ 157 fighters,
~ 20 x GJ-1/WD-1K precision strike UAVs,
12 x WD-1 ground attack and reconnaissance UAVs,
12 x WD-1 precision strike UAVs,
~ 8 EA-03 reconnaissance and electronic warfare

 

Air Forces: India

Note: Bases labelled in black—e.g. —are those which have been assessed by analysts to be the most likely to contain specific aircraft squadrons that have been certified for nuclear strike missions by India’s Strategic Forces Command (SFC). These bases and squadrons are controlled by their parent Air Force Command and hold conventional assignments in peacetime. A nuclear strike order will entail certified aircraft being armed with nuclear weapons and flown by Air Force pilots.

 

Icon

Name

Parent Command

Force Numbers

Location

Srinagar Air Force Station (AFS)

Western Air Command

~ 17 fighters
#51 Sq. MiG-21 Bison

Link

Leh AFS

Western Air Command

~ 8 fighters
#28 Sq. Detachment MiG-29/29UB

Link

Pathankot AFS

Western Air Command

~ 17 fighters
#26 Sq. MiG-21

Link

Adampur AFS

Western Air Command

~ 34 fighters
#47 Sq. & #223 Sq. MiG-29

Link

Ambala AFS

Western Air Command

~ 34 nuclear-certified ground attack aircraft,
~ 17 fighters
#5 Sq. & #14 Sq. Jaguar IS,
#3 Sq. MiG-21 Bison

Link

Daulet Beg Oldi Advanced Landing Ground (ALG)

Western Air Command

N/A

Link

Thoise ALG

Western Air Command

N/A

Link

Parma Valley ALG

Western Air Command

N/A

Link

Nyoma ALG

Western Air Command

N/A

Link

Fukche ALG

Western Air Command

N/A

Link

Total Air Forces: Western Air Command

~ 75 fighters,
~
34 ground attack aircraft

 

Bareilly AFS

Central Air Command

~ 34 fighters

#8 Sq. Su-30MKI/MKI-3,
#24 Sq. Su-30MKI-3

Link

Gwalior/

Maharajpur AFS

Central Air Command

~ 17 nuclear-certified (Mirage) fighters, ~9 fighters

#1 Sq., #7 Sq., & #9 Sq. Mirage 2000H/TH. Half squadron (TACDE) of MiG-21Bisons,
MiG-27MUs, & SU-30MKIs

Link

Gorakhpur AFS

Central Air Command

~ 34 nuclear-certified ground attack aircraft

#16 Sq. & #27 Sq. Jaguar IS

Link

Dharasu ALG

Central Air Command

N/A

Link

Total Air Forces: Central Air Command

~ 94 fighters,
~ 34 ground attack aircraft

 

 

Icon

Name

Parent Command

Force Numbers

Location

Tezpur AFS

Eastern Air Command

~ 34 fighters

#2 Sq. SU-30MKI/MKI3,
#106 Sq. Su-30MKI-3

Link

Chabua AFS

Eastern Air Command

~ 17 fighters
#102 Sq. Su-30MKI-3

Link

Jalpaguiri/

Hashimara AFS

Eastern Air Command

~ 34 fighters
#22 Sq. & #222 Sq. MiG-27M

Link

Tuting ALG

Eastern Air Command

N/A

Link

Mechuka ALG

Eastern Air Command

N/A

Link

Along ALG

Eastern Air Command

N/A

Link

Tawang ALG (Helipad)

Eastern Air Command

N/A

Link

Dirang ALG

Eastern Air Command

N/A

Link

Ziro ALG

Eastern Air Command

N/A

Link

Pasighat ALG

Eastern Air Command

N/A

Link

Walong ALG

Eastern Air Command

N/A

Link

Vijaynagar ALG

Eastern Air Command

N/A

Link

Total Air Forces: Eastern Air Command

~ 101 fighters

 

Total Air Forces

~ 270 fighters,
~ 68 ground attack aircraft

 

Air Forces: Comparison Table

 

China

India

Total Air Forces

~ 157 fighters

~ 20 x GJ-1/WD-1K precision strike UAVs

12 x WD-1 ground attack and reconnaissance UAVs

12 x WD-1 precision strike UAVs

~ 8 EA-03 reconnaissance and electronic warfare

~ 270 fighters

~ 68 ground attack aircraft

 

Nuclear Forces: China

Note: Not all Chinese nuclear bases have been allocated a circle indicating strike range, due to several bases having highly similar locations and ranges and a desire to maximize map clarity. In base clusters where this occurs, one base has been allocated the indicative range circle.Chinese nuclear forces are operated by the Rocket Force Command, which executes nuclear strike orders made by the Central Military Commission.

Icon

Name

Nuclear and Nuclear-Capable Missile Numbers

Location (URLs)

China Missile 1

Chuxiong Brigade, 53rd Base

~ 12 x DF-21 (2,150km range)

With Strike Range Filter

No Filter

China Missile 2

Kunming Brigade,
53
rd Base

~ 12 x DF-21 (2,150 km range)

With Strike Range Filter

No Filter

China Missile 3

Tianshui Brigade,
53
rd Base

~ 12 x DF-21 (2,150 km range)

With Strike Range Filter

No Filter

China Missile 4

Beidao/Tawanli Brigade, 56th Base

~ 12 x DF-31A (11,000 km range)

With Strike Range Filter

No Filter

China Missile 5

Xining Brigade,
56
th Base

~ 12 x DF-21 (2,150 km range) /

DF-31 (7,000 km range)

With Strike Range Filter

No Filter

(Unable to determine exact missile locations, so location of 56th Base HQ utilized)

China Missile 6

Datong Brigade,
56
th Base

~ 12 x DF-21 (2,150 km range)

With Strike Range Filter

No Filter

China Missile 7

Liuqingkou Brigade,
56
th Base

~ 12 x DF-21 (2,150 km range)

With Strike Range Filter

No Filter

China Missile 8

Delingha Brigade,
56
th Base

~ 12 x DF-21 (2,150 km range) / DF-31 (7,000 km range).

DF-21C (2,150km range) conventional missiles.

With Strike Range Filter

No Filter

China Missile 9

Da Qaidam Brigade, 56th Base

DF-21C (2,150km range) conventional missiles.

Unknown nuclear missile deployments. (Previously DF-4 Brigade, but only DF-4 Brigade still in operation is close to Lingbao in Henan Province).

With Strike Range Filter

No Filter

China Missile 10

Mahai Brigade,
56
th Base

Unknown

With Strike Range Filter

No Filter

China Missile 11

Korla Brigade,
56
th Base

~ 12 x DF-21 (2,150 km range) missiles.

DF-21C (2,150km range) conventional missiles

With Strike Range Filter

No Filter

Total Nuclear and Nuclear-Capable Forces

> 104 missiles that can strike all or elements of India, including:

~ 12 x DF-31A (11,000 km range),~ 6-12 DF-31 (7,000 km range) that can reach all Indian mainland targets.

~ 12 x DF-21 (2,150 km range) that can reach New Delhi.

The remaining missiles can target sections of India’s northeast and east coast.

 

Nuclear Forces: India

Notes: India may possess more missiles than launchers for each missile type. India has also reportedly deployed a small number of 3,200 km range Agni-III missiles, but their locations and progress toward the targeted force strength are currently unknown. As the authors have information indicating the potential presence of a 2,000 km range Agni-II missile brigade near Nagaon in Assam in northeast India, the Agni-III missiles are estimated by the authors to be based in the same general area. As illustrated on the map, this location is optimal for Agni-III missiles to reach all significant mainland targets in China and Pakistan. Missile base locations represent general estimations, as opposed to exact locations.

Not all Indian nuclear bases have been allocated a circle indicating strike range, due to several bases (e.g. 1-4) being unable to reach Chinese targets, and some having highly similar locations and ranges in light of a desire to maximize map clarity. In base clusters featuring at least one base able to reach Chinese targets, one base has been allocated the indicative range circle.

While the Chinese nuclear forces and locations included in this analysis are only those assessed to be most geographically relevant to India targeting missions, the Indian nuclear forces and bases detailed here—with the exception of the nascent Arihant-class SSBN fleet being formed at Visakhapatnam and Rambilli—represent the entirety of India’s identifiable operational nuclear forces. The necessity to retain a significant proportion of these forces for Pakistan targeting missions provides analytical context to this data.

As with China, nuclear warheads are held at separate locations from delivery vehicles in peacetime. A nuclear strike order is issued by the Political Council of the Nuclear Command Authority (NCA), and executed through the NCA Executive Council and military Strategic Forces Command.

Icon

Name

Nuclear and Nuclear-Certified Delivery Vehicles

Location

Ambala AFS

~ 17 nuclear-certified ground attack aircraft to carry gravity bombs,

#5 Sq. & #14 Sq. Jaguar IS

With Strike Range Filter

Gwalior/

Maharajpur AFS

~ 17 nuclear-certified fighters to carry gravity bombs,

#1 Sq., #7 Sq., & #9 Sq. Mirage 2000H/TH.

With Strike Range Filter
(Dark Blue Circle)

Gorakhpur AFS

~ 17 nuclear-certified ground attack aircraft to carry gravity bombs,

#16 Sq. & #27 Sq. Jaguar IS

With Strike Range Filter

Stuff\New Icons\India - Missile Base - 1.png

444 Missile Group

Brigade

(Possible General Brigade Sites)

~ 8 Prithvi-II (250 km range) missile launchers total

On Strike Range Map
(No Strike Range Circle)

Stuff\New Icons\India - Missile Base - 2.png

444 Missile Group

Brigade

On Strike Range Map
(No Strike Range Circle)

Stuff\New Icons\India - Missile Base - 3.png

444 Missile Group

Brigade

On Strike Range Map
(No Strike Range Circle)

Stuff\New Icons\India - Missile Base - 4.png

444 Missile Group

Brigade

On Strike Range Map
(No Strike Range Circle)

Stuff\New Icons\India - Missile Base - 5.png

334 Missile Group, 3341 Brigade

~ 8 Agni-III (3,200 km range) missile launchers,~ 8 Agni-II (2,000 km range) missile launchers

With Strike Range Filter (Green Circle)

Stuff\New Icons\India - Missile Base - 6.png

333 Missile Group, 3332 Brigade

~ 8 Prithvi-II (250 km range) missile launchers

On Strike Range Map
(No Circle)

Stuff\New Icons\India - Missile Base - 7.png

332 Missile Group Brigade

~ 8 Agni-II (2,000 km range) missile launchers

With Strike Range Filter (Purple Circle)

Stuff\New Icons\India Missile Base - 8.png

334 Missile Group, 3341 Brigade

~ 10 Agni-I (1,000km range) missile launchers

On Strike Range Map
(No Circle)

Stuff\New Icons\India Missile Base - 9.png

333 Missile Group, 3331 and 3332 Brigades.

334 Missile Group Brigade.

~ 16 Prithvi-II (250 km range) missile launchers

~ 10 Agni-I (1,000km range) missile launchers

On Strike Range Map
(No Circle)

Total Estimated Nuclear and Nuclear-Certified Forces

~8 Agni-III launchers able to reach all Chinese mainland targets and
~8 Agni-II launchers able to reach central Chinese targets (e.g. Xi’an, Chongqing).

~51 nuclear-certified aircraft with gravity bombs and
~8 Agni-II launchers able to reach Tibet.

 

Nuclear Forces: Comparison Table

 

China

India

Total Estimated Nuclear, Nuclear-Capable and Nuclear-Certified Forces

> 104 missiles that can strike all or elements of India.

~ 12 x DF-31A (11,000 km range),
~ 6-12 DF-31 (7,000 km range) that can reach all Indian mainland targets.

~ 12 x DF-21 (2,150 km range) that can reach New Delhi.

The remaining missiles can target sections of India’s northeast and east coast.

~10 Agni-III launchers able to reach all Chinese mainland targets, and ~8 Agni-II launchers able to reach central Chinese targets (e.g. Xi’an, Chongqing).

~ 51 nuclear-certified aircraft with gravity bombs and ~8 Agni-II launchers able to reach Tibet.

 

 


Notes

 
1For background on the Doklam crisis and these Indian and Chinese debates, see Frank O’Donnell, Stabilizing Sino-Indian Security Relations: Managing Strategic Rivalry After Doklam (Beijing: Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy, 2018), https://carnegieendowment.org/files/CP335_ODonnell_final.pdf.
2O’Donnell interview with Dr. Jagannath P. Panda, Research Fellow & East Asia Centre Coordinator, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi, June 12, 2018.
3H.S. Panag, “How Will Chinese Use of Force in Doklam Manifest?,” Times of India, August 20, 2017, https://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/shooting-straight/how-will-chinese-use-of-force-in-doklam-manifest/
4“Raisings” refers here to fresh recruitment in order to create new military formations.
5US Department of Defense, Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2019 (Washington DC: US Department of Defense, 2019), p. 61, https://media.defense.gov/2019/May/02/2002127082/-1/-1/1/2019_CHINA_MILITARY_POWER_REPORT.pdf
6Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, “Chinese Nuclear Forces, 2016,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 72, no. 4 (2016): 205–11; Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, “New FAS Nuclear Notebook: Chinese Nuclear Forces, 2016,” Federation of American Scientists, July 1, 2016, https://fas.org/ blogs/security/2016/07/china-notebook-2016; “Dong Feng 21 (DF-21/CSS-5),” Center for Strategic and International Studies, April 13, 2016, https://missilethreat.csis.org/missile/df-21/; Sean O’Connor, “PLA Second Artillery Corps (Technical Report APATR-2009-1204),” Air Power Australia, January 27, 2014, http://www.ausairpower.net/APA-PLA-Second-Artillery-Corps.html#mozTocId211040.
7Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, “Chinese Nuclear Forces, 2016,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 72, no. 4 (2016): 205–11; Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, “New FAS Nuclear Notebook: Chinese Nuclear Forces, 2016,” Federation of American Scientists, July 1, 2016, https://fas.org/ blogs/security/2016/07/china-notebook-2016; “Dong Feng 21 (DF-21/CSS-5),” Center for Strategic and International Studies, April 13, 2016, https://missilethreat.csis.org/missile/df-21/; Sean O’Connor, “China’s ICBM Modernisation Alters Threat Profile,” Jane’s Intelligence Review, October 26, 2015; Sean O’Connor, “PLA Second Artillery Corps (Technical Report APATR-2009-1204),” Air Power Australia, January 27, 2014, http://www.ausairpower.net/APA-PLA-Second-Artillery-Corps.html#mozTocId211040.
8The organization of Chinese missile forces into multiple locations, but only a smaller number of “bases,” may be puzzling to external observes. This is because Chinese “missile units are organized into what the PLA refers to as ‘bases.’ There are six bases, each located in a different geographical area. Each base has numerous subordinate missile brigades, with each brigade maintaining one or more garrisons, various underground facilities (UGFs), rail transfer points, and field launch positions.” O’Connor, “PLA Second Artillery Corps.” Of these six bases, only the two located closest to India, and assessed to have India targeting missions, are listed in this table.
9This assessment excludes India’s emerging sea-based nuclear force. India’s first, and at the time of writing only, nuclear-armed submarine, INS Arihant, concluded its first operational patrol in November 2018. The absence of public information regarding its patrol areas and accordant nuclear range, plus the survivability concerns around a single-boat SSBN force, means we treat the Indian sea-based force as nascent. We estimate that India will presently not rely upon the Arihant for its nuclear deterrence to the degree that it presently does for the air- and land-delivered elements as its base nuclear force. See Yogesh Joshi, “Angles and Dangles: Arihant and the Dilemma of India’s Undersea Nuclear Weapons,” War on the Rocks, January 14, 2019, https://warontherocks.com/2019/01/angles-and-dangles-arihant-and-the-dilemma-of-indias-undersea-nuclear-weapons/; and Sandeep Unnithan, “INS Arihant Returned Yesterday from 20-day Deterrent Patrol,” India Today, November 5, 2018, https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/ins-arihant-returned-yesterday-from-20-day-deterrent-patrol-1383188-2018-11-05.
10See, for example, Vipin Narang, “Five Myths about India’s Nuclear Posture,” Washington Quarterly, Vol. 36 Issue 3 (Summer 2013) p. 148
11Frank O’Donnell and Harsh V. Pant, “The Evolution of India’s National Security Apparatus: Persisting Structural Deficiencies,” in Harsh V. Pant (ed.) The Routledge Handbook of Indian Defence Policy (Oxford: Routledge, 2015).
12See our assessment of Indian nuclear force locations, and Verghese Koithara, Managing India’s Nuclear Forces (Washington DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2012), p. 115.
13Indian missile location and type details from multiple sources. The first source is a Bangladeshi military officer utilizing Pakistani military intelligence data. This first set of data, estimating Indian missile types and locations in Kamptee and Pune in western India, Secunderabad in central India, and Rajasthan in northwestern India, is as of late 2011. These missile location and base details in northwestern, western, and central India are corroborated by identifying details of Indian missile group officers openly published by the Indian government, and further corroborating meaningful records of these officers available online. These sources range from 2009-2010. Publicly available corroborating estimates include: for the Secunderabad location and missile types, Petr Topychkanov, “India’s Prospects in the Area of Ballistic Missile Defense: A Regional Security Perspective,” Carnegie Moscow Center, 2012, p. 16, https://carnegieendowment.org/files/WP3_2012_Topychkanov_en.pdf, and GlobalSecurity.Org, July 24, 2011, “Prithvi Garrison (probable), Research Center Imarat (RCI),” https://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/world/india/hyderabad-rci-p.htm; for the general locations and missile types identified in the above sources, Hans M. Kristensen & Robert S. Norris, “Indian nuclear forces, 2017,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Vol. 73, No. 4 (2017), p. 207; and for clarification that Prithvi missile “222” and “444” group names can be used interchangeably by the Indian government, Sandeep Dikshit, “Armed Forces Favour Agni,” The Hindu, July 10, 2006, https://web.archive.org/web/20170825041229/http://icast.org.in/news/2006/jul06/jul10hc.html. Our estimate of the northeastern missile base location hosting Agni-IIs and Agni-IIIs in Assam is derived from a combination of sources. These, firstly, include the identification of a 3341 Missile Group operating Agni-IIs in the above Bangladesh/Pakistan data. Utilizing meaningful records available online, an Indian 3341 Missile Group officer changed his address to a location in Assam in the period 2010-11, where it has remained until at least end of 2017. He was still assigned to the 3341 Missile Group on these updated address details. The 2010-11 timing of this officer’s relocation to Assam is significant because it aligns with a Press Trust of India report from August 2010, stating that the government was at that point considering stationing Agni-IIs in the northeast, and that the MoD was acquiring land in the northeast for deploying these missiles. See Press Trust of India, “Agni-II Missile to be Deployed Near China Border?,” Rediff, August 24, 2010, https://www.rediff.com/news/report/agni-2-missile-to-be-deployed-near-china-border/20100824.htm. The above Kristensen and Norris report separately estimated that the Agni-II has been generally operationally deployed since 2011, and that “Targeting is probably focused on western, central, and southern China.” (p. 207). In their analysis of the 3,200km-range Agni-III, they observe that “The Indian Ministry of Defence declared in 2014 that the Agni-3 is ‘in the arsenal of the armed forces’…Several years ago, an army spokesperson remarked, ‘With this missile, India can even strike Shanghai’ but this would require launching the Agni-3 from the very northeastern corner of India.” (p. 207). Based upon this combined evidence, we estimate that Agni-IIIs are also stationed in Assam with the Agni-II regiment. This placement aligns with the above army spokesperson’s remarks; the Indian tendency to cluster different missile types at the same location, as at Kamptee and Secunderabad; and the fact that Assam forms the optimal placement for the Agni-III hold all mainland targets in China and Pakistan at risk. All missile range details from Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, “Indian Nuclear Forces, 2017,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Vol. 73 Issue 4 (2017) pp. 205-209.
14For estimated Agni-II and Agni-III missile numbers and ranges, see Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, “Indian Nuclear Forces, 2017,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Vol. 73 Issue 4 (2017) pp. 206-207. For data supporting our estimation of Agni-II and Agni-III missile locations in Assam, see Bangladeshi/Pakistani intelligence data and separate data locating 3341 Agni-II Missile Group officer as discussed above; Press Trust of India, “Agni-II Missile to be Deployed Near China Border?,”; and Kristensen and Norris, “Indian Nuclear Forces, 2017,” p. 207. For nuclear-capable aircraft locations and ranges, see Kristensen and Norris, “Indian Nuclear Forces, 2017,” pp. 205-7.
15Ibid.
17The totals for these commands include only those forces deployed near China, not the larger forces deployed near Pakistan and elsewhere. For our estimation of average Indian formation strengths (minus non-combat support forces), see “Indian Army Divisions,” GlobalSecurity.org, July 25, 2016, https://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/india/divisions.htm; and John E. Peters et al., War and Escalation in South Asia (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2006), p. 38. For more detailed command-level, division-level, and other formational breakdowns, see “India - Army,” in Jane’s Sentinel Security Assessment – South Asia, October 30, 2017; Prakhar Gupta, “Can India Embarrass China in a Limited Military Conflict?,” Swarajya, July 26, 2017, https://swarajyamag.com/defence/can-india-embarrass-china-in-a-limited-military-conflict; Saurav Jha, “China’s Creeping Invasion of India,” The Diplomat, July 6, 2017, https://thediplomat.com/2017/07/chinas-creeping-invasion-of-india/; Dinakar Peri, “Third Regiment of T-72 Tanks to be Moved to Ladakh Soon,” The Hindu, July 19, 2016, https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/Third-regiment-of-T-72-tanks-to-be-moved-to-Ladakh-soon/article14497629.ece; Nitin Gokhale, “So It’s Going to Be 17 Mountain Corps?,” NewsWarrior (blog),November 16, 2013, http://nitinagokhale.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/so-its-going-to-be-17-mountain-corps.html?m=1; Rahul Bedi, “Indian Army Faces Further Issues in Creating New Mountain StrikeCorps,” Jane’s Defense Weekly, March 10, 2016; Rajat Pandit, “With Eye on China,India Deploys Akash Missiles in Northeast,” Times of India, August 22, 2014; Shashank Joshi, “17 Corps: As China Rises, India Raises the Stakes,” Lowy Interpreter, January 9, 2014, http://www.lowyinterpreter.org/post/2014/01/09/17-Corps-As-China-rises-Indias-army-raises-the-stakes.aspx; “8 Mountain Division,” GlobalSecurity.org, September 7, 2011, https://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/india/8-div.htm; “Brigades,” GlobalSecurity.org, July 25, 2016, https://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/india/brigades.htm; “Central Command,” GlobalSecurity.org, September 7, 2011, https://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/india/centcom.htm.
18Dutch Aviation Society, “India – Air Force,” http://www.scramble.nl/orbats/india; Sanjay Badri-Maharaj, “The Indian Air Force’s Declining Squadron Strength – Options and Challenges (IDSA Issue Brief),” Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (New Delhi), November 3, 2017, https://idsa.in/system/files/issuebrief/ib_the-indian-air-force-decliningsquadron-strength_sbmaharaj.pdf, Sudhi Ranjan Sen, “Indian Air Force has only 32 Squadrons - Lowest in Decade,” NDTV, February 26, 2016, https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/indian-air-force-has-only-32-squadrons-lowest-in-adecade-1281558.
19“India Airports,” Airports Worldwide, http://www.airportsworldwide.com/india.php; “Advanced Landing Ground,” World Airport Codes, https://www.worldairportcodes.com/search/?s=advanced+landing+ground&lastinput=advanced+landing+ground&page=; “List of Air Force Stations in India,” International Virtual Aviation Organisation, September 6, 2017, https://doc.ivao.aero/specops:loa:in; “India to Construct Advanced Landing Grounds in Tawang, Dirang,” Northeast Today, April 20, 2017, https://www.northeasttoday.in/india-to-construct-advancedlanding-grounds-in-tawang-dirang/; Government of India, Press Information Bureau, “Upgraded Advanced Landing Grounds at Ziro and Along Inaugurated,” March 12, 2016, http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=137859.
20Average Chinese army formation size estimates for this study from Dennis J. Blasko, “PLA Ground Forces: Moving Toward a Smaller, More Rapidly Deployable, Modern Combined Arms Force,” in James C. Mulvenon and Andrew N.D. Yang (eds.), The People’s Liberation Army as Organization: Reference Volume V1.0 (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2002) pp. 319-326, https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/conf_proceedings/2008/CF182part2.pdf. Army formation locations and identifying details from Kevin McCauley, “Snapshot: China’s Western Theater Command,” Jamestown Foundation China Brief, Vol. 17, Issue 1 (January 13, 2017), https://jamestown.org/program/snapshot-chinas-westerntheater-command; China Defence Today, “PLA Ground Force,” January 1, 2017, https://sinodefence.wordpress.com/pla-ground-force-2016/; and Jayadeva Ranade, “China’s Focus on Military Activities in Tibet,” Centre for China Analysis &Strategy (New Delhi), August 21, 2015, https://ccasindia.org/issue_policy.php?ipid=36.
21Kevin McCauley, “Snapshot: China’s Western Theater Command,” Jamestown Foundation China Brief, Vol. 17, Issue 1 (January 13, 2017), https://jamestown.org/program/snapshot-chinas-western-theater-command; Interviews and correspondence with long-time analysts of China’s military, Washington DC, November 2017–January 2018.
22Dennis J. Blasko, “PLA Army ‘Below the Neck’ Reforms: Improving China’s Deterrence and Joint Warfighting Posture,” Conference Paper presented to 2017 Zijin International Forum, Nanjing University, October 30-31, 2017, p. 10.
23Kevin McCauley, “Snapshot: China’s Western Theater Command,” Jamestown Foundation China Brief, Vol. 17, Issue 1 (January 13, 2017), https://jamestown.org/program/snapshot-chinas-western-theater-command; “China’s Focus on Military Activities in Tibet,” Centre for China Analysis &Strategy (New Delhi), August 21, 2015, https://ccasindia.org/issue_policy.php?ipid=36.
24Lawrence “Sid” Trevathan, “Brigadization” of the PLA Air Force (Montgomery, AL: China Aerospace Studies Institute, Air University, 2018), pp. 3, 5-7, https://www.airuniversity.af.edu/Portals/10/CASI/Books/Brigadization_of_the_PLA_Air_Force.pdf.
25Interview and correspondence with long-term analyst of China’s military, Washington DC, Nov 27, 2017.
26Monika Chansoria, “China’s Infrastructure Development in Tibet: Evaluating Trendlines (Manekshaw Paper No. 32),” Centre for Land Warfare Studies (New Delhi), 2011, pp. 15-16, http://www.claws.in/images/publication_pdf/1317312941MP%2032%20inside.pdf; Kevin McCauley, “Snapshot: China’s Western Theater Command,” Jamestown Foundation China Brief, Vol. 17, Issue 1 (January 13, 2017), https://jamestown.org/program/snapshot-chinas-western-theater-command; “China – Air Force,” Dutch Aviation Society, http://www.scramble.nl/orbats/china/airforce/.
27Pushan Das, “The Widening Gap between Indian and Chinese Air Power,” Observer Research Foundation, April 30, 2018, https://www.orfonline.org/research/the-widening-gap-between-indian-and-chinese-air-power/; Sameer Joshi, “The Dragon’s Claws: Assessing China’s PLAAF Today,” Vayu Aerospace & Defence Review, Issue 4 (July-August 2017), p. 66, http://www.vayuaerospace.in/issue/vayu-issue-vayu-issue-iv-july-aug-2017.pdf.
28Air Marshal R.S. Bedi (Retd.), “China a Threat or a Challenge: Its Air Power Potential,” Indian Defence Review, March 8, 2017, http://www.indiandefencereview.com/spotlights/china-a-threat-or-a-challenge-its-air-power-potential/; Joshi, “The Dragon’s Claws,” p. 72.
29Joshi, “The Dragon’s Claws,” pp. 62, 65.
30Vishnu Som, “Exclusive: Why Indian Air Force May Best Chinese Jets In An Air Battle Over Tibet,” NDTV, August 9, 2017, https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/exclusive-why-indian-air-force-may-best-chinese-jets-in-an-air-battle-over-tibet-1735052; Bedi, “China a Threat or a Challenge.”
31Group Capt. (Retd.) Ravinder Singh Chhatwal, “Is China Preparing for a Conflict with India?,” Indian Defence Review, March 19, 2019, http://www.indiandefencereview.com/news/is-china-preparing-for-a-conflict-with-india/; Prasun K. Sengupta, “Dragon’s Air Power over TAR,” FORCE Magazine, November 2018, http://forceindia.net/cover-story/dragons-air-power-tar/; http://forceindia.net/cover-story/dragons-air-power-tar/.
32Chhatwal, “Is China Preparing for a Conflict with India?”
33Chhatwal, “Is China Preparing for a Conflict with India?”; Prasun K. Sengupta, “Dragon’s Air Power over TAR.”
34Group Captain Ravinder Chhatwal (Retd.), The Chinese Air Threat: Understanding the Reality (New Delhi: KW Publishers, 2016), p. 186.
35See Daniel Kliman, Iskander Rehman, Kristine Lee and Joshua Fitt, “Imbalance of Power: India’s Military Choices in an Era of Strategic Competition with China,” Center for a New American Security, October 23, 2019, https://www.cnas.org/publications/reports/imbalance-of-power; and Vivek Kapur, “IAF Equipment and Force Structure Requirements to Meet External Threats, 2032,” Journal of Defence Studies, Vol. 8, No. 1 (Jan–March 2014), https://idsa.in/system/files/8_1_2014_IAFEquipmentandForceStructureRequirementst.pdf, pp. 71-72.
36Lyle J. Morris and Eric Heginbotham, From Theory to Practice: People’s Liberation Army Air Force Aviation Training at the Operational Unit (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2016), pp. 27-28, https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/research_reports/RR1400/RR1415/RAND_RR1415.pdf.
37Kenneth W. Allen, “PLA Air Force, 1949-2002: Overview and Lessons Learned,” in Laurie Burkitt, Andrew Scobell, and Larry M. Wortzel (eds), The Lessons of History: The Chinese People’s Liberation Army at 75 (Carlisle, PA: US Army War College Strategic Studies Institute, 2003), p. 139, http://edocs.nps.edu/AR/org/SSI/Jul03_Burkitt_Chinese_People.pdf.
38For details of progressive Chinese air base hardening in US-facing areas, see Eric Heginbotham et al, The U.S.-China Military Scorecard: Forces, Geography, and the Evolving Balance of Power, 1996–2017 (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2015), pp. 133-150, https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/research_reports/RR300/RR392/RAND_RR392.pdf.
39Chhatwal, The Chinese Air Threat, pp. 185-186.
40Air Marshal K.C. Cariappa (Retd.), “Sinews for the Indian Air Force,” Strategic Analysis, Vol. XXI, No. 9 (December 1997), https://www.idsa-india.org/an-dec-9.html.
41See Vijay Mohan, “Fiberglass Mats for Quick Runway Repairs,” Tribune, February 3, 2019, https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/nation/fiberglass-mats-for-quick-runway-repairs/722957.html, and Government of India, Make In India (Defence) Initiative, Invitation for Expression of Interest (EOI) for Indigenous Development of Foldable Fibreglass Mat Under Make II Procedure of DPP 2016, November 15, 2019, https://www.makeinindiadefence.gov.in/admin/writereaddata/upload/project/eoi/EoI_for_Foldable_Fibreglass_Mats__IAF.pdf. For estimated runway repair times using fiberglass mats, see Lois Walsh, “Airmen Ready to Rapidly Repair Runways,” 96th Air Base Wing Public Affairs, US Air Force, March 17, 2005, https://www.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/134809/airmen-ready-to-rapidly-repair-runways/; and Carmichael Yepez, “Afghanistan-Bound Seabees Practice Runway Repair,” Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 3, US Navy, February 9, 2007, https://web.archive.org/web/20070213020823/http://www.news.navy.mil/search/display.asp?story_id=27704.
42Chhatwal, The Chinese Air Threat, p. 195.
43China is likely to rely largely upon its military road network and air bases “in the frontier areas of Tibet and Xinjiang” for reinforcements. Several of these military lifeline roads have been identified in a recent well-sourced Indian defense analysis and would be early targets for IAF combat operations. See Sandeep Unnithan and Ananth Krishnan, “Doklam Border Standoff: Will there be an India-China War?,” India Today, August 7, 2017, https://www.indiatoday.in/magazine/cover-story/story/20170807-doklam-stand-off-india-china-dispute-will-china-go-to-war-1026539-2017-07-28. The air bases, for their own part, are likely to be those initially targeted by the IAF, again limiting the extent of successful Chinese reinforcement from its interior. Joshi, “The Dragon’s Claws,” p. 76. China’s Tibetan rail network may present an additional high-value target for IAF bombers and standoff missiles. See Iskander Rehman, “Tomorrow or Yesterday’s Fleet? The Indian Navy’s Operational Challenges,” in C. Raja Mohan and Anit Mukherjee (eds.), India’s Naval Strategy and Asian Security (New York: Routledge, 2016), pp. 54-55.
44“CAG Pulls Up Defence Ministry on Ammunition Management,” Economic Times, July 11, 2016, https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/defence/cag-pulls-up-defence-ministry-on-ammunition-management-in-army/articleshow/47204599.cms.
45See, for example, Sandeep Unnithan, “High on Josh | Defence,” India Today, April 12, 2019, https://www.indiatoday.in/magazine/the-big-story/story/20190422-high-on-josh-defence-1499381-2019-04-12; “Indian Army is Buying New, More Powerful US Rifles: All You Need to Know,” Business Standard, February 16, 2019, https://www.business-standard.com/article/defence/indian-army-is-buying-new-more-powerful-us-rifles-all-you-need-to-know-119021400977_1.html; and Vivek Raghuvanshi, “India Looks to Fast-Track Ammo Purchases Worth $1 Billion,” Defense News, November 10, 2016, https://www.defensenews.com/land/2016/11/10/india-looks-to-fast-track-ammo-purchases-worth-1-billion/.
46The research and analysis of Indian and Chinese forces was conducted by O’Donnell.
47Airfield and unit identifications from Monika Chansoria, “China’s Infrastructure Development in Tibet: Evaluating Trendlines (Manekshaw Paper No. 32),” Centre for Land Warfare Studies (New Delhi), 2011, pp. 15-16, http://www.claws.in/images/publication_pdf/1317312941MP%2032%20inside.pdf; Kevin McCauley, “Snapshot: China’s Western Theater Command,” Jamestown Foundation China Brief,Vol. 17, Issue 1 (January 13, 2017), https://jamestown.org/program/snapshot-chinas-western-theater-command; Group Capt. (Retd.) A.K. Sachdev, “How Worrisome is PLAAF Presence in Tibet?,” Indian Defence Review, November 1, 2017, http://www.indiandefencereview.com/news/how-worrisome-is-plaaf-presence-in-tibet/; Prasun K. Sengupta, “Dragon’s Air Power over TAR,” FORCE Magazine, November 2018, http://forceindia.net/cover-story/dragons-air-power-tar/; “China – Air Force,” Dutch Aviation Society, http://www.scramble.nl/orbats/china/airforce; and interview and correspondence with long-term analyst of China’s military, Washington DC, Nov 27, 2017.
For more information on this publication: Please contact Managing the Atom
For Academic Citation: O'Donnell, Frank and Alexander K. Bollfrass. “The Strategic Postures of China and India: A Visual Guide.” Managing the Atom Project, Belfer Center, March 2020.

The Authors