My colleague at Defense Tech, Greg Grant, forwarded me this pic a few days ago that comes from a Foreign Policy magazine article on Chinese military strength, and it was noteworthy to both of us because of the intriguing camo pattern on the PLA trooper and the vehicles he's driving.
I know very little about the specifics of PLA gear and weapons, but Military.com has a good friend who looks at this stuff from all angles and does a lot of translating of Chinese military publications and documents.
Martin Andrew is an Australia-based analyst who publishes the newsletter titled "Gi Zhou" which goes into very specific analysis of PLA military doctrine (the latest push is toward "joint operations that combine information and firepower" using special operations, helicopter assets and light armor) and weaponry (the PLA is outfitting many of its light armored vehicles with a new 30mm cannon based on the Ukrainian Shkval gun). If anyone knows what's going on with this new digicam, he would.
So I pinged him on the issue and he said that the PLA has more than 15 different camouflage schemes and that this picture was taken during a practice day for a Chinese military parade in October '09 "where everyone was digital."
The uniforms might go digital for operational units but the vehicles would inordinately expensive. Then again they might for selected units. I believe that some of the vehicles on the parade might have constituted the bulk of the PLA's holdings of that vehicle, eg CJ-10 cruise missile launcher, so for operational units using these vehicles this may be true.
But he adds that this could be a seasonal camo scheme, since later pictures of those vehicles and units show the typcial woodland schemes of previous PLA armor and uniform sightings. For example, the German Army in World War II painted their armor in white using water-based paint that could be easily removed when the environment changed.
The irony, of course, is that after flirting with digital (after the Marine Corps jumped out of the box on digital back in 2003), the US Army is in a fundamental rethink of the pattern. So, in the next parade will we see PLA troops and vehicles in SinoMultiCam?
Coming Up: AfCam distribution schedule and combat grillin'...