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China Improving its Opposing Forces (OPFOR) Capabilities

Over the last two decades, China’s PLA has sought to improve its combat readiness. China studied the U.S. National Training Center and attempted to replicate our capabilities at their Zhurihe Combat Arms Training Base which is their national combat training center. Zhurihe features year-round training, Force-on-Force operations with a dedicated OPFOR, Foreign Force uniforms & equipment, electronic simulators, UAVs to observe training and assist with after-action reviews, and combined-arms live fire ranges.  Zhurihe is the PLA’s joint operations experimental training ground. 

In addition to Zhurihe, the PLA also have dedicated units to serve as OPFOR at three of their five regional combat training center bases.  What’s notable is that the PLA OPFOR replicate the U.S. Army and they operate like a well-trained Brigade Combat Team with realistic enabling capabilities.   

A key figure in the PLA’s efforts to improve their combat training is COL (Gwang-Jee) MAN. COL MAN is the commander of the OPFOR at Zhurihe, and has been there for over five years, turning down promotions in order to stay and train rotational units. He has done extensive studies on the U.S. military and has published a number of noteworthy papers on foreign militaries. MAN’s emphasis on understanding the enemy and the changing character of war has translated to quality training at Zhurihe. 

Combat training center rotations have also changed and rotational units now do not move on from training until they have successfully accomplished their training tasks. Though less units rotate through, they come away more proficient. Also, rotational units often begin fighting their OPFOR from the time they depart from their home station, replicating real-world challenges, like destroyed vehicles and degraded communications. Ultimately, the PLA has significantly advanced their training making them a much more capable force.