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Eastern Order of Battle

Chinese Guangzhou Military Region
Ground Forces in the eighties

Chinese Guangzhou Military Region

Sporadic fighting on the border occurred throughout the 1980s, and China threatened to launch another attack. For example, the Chinese forces shot down a Vietnamese Air Force MiG-21 ‘Fishbed’ reconnaissance fighter in 1987.

On February 17, 1979, the Chinese People's Liberation Army crossed the Vietnamese border, withdrawing on March 5 after a two-week campaign which devastated northern Vietnam and briefly threatened the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi. Later the China and Vietnam began a major build-up of forces along the border. They fortified its border region and districts.

During the Sino-Vietnamese conflicts, between 1979 and 1991 the Guangzhou Military Region had two Chinese Army Group:

Chinese Guangzhou Military Region

Chinese Guangzhou Military Region
7th Air Corps in the eighties

In May 1957, the Guangzhou Military Region’s Air Force and Guangzhou MR Air Defense Force were merged into a combined air defense system. In the late sixties and early seventies, the air units of the Guangzhou Military Region often met the USAF and US Navy bombers at the Sino-Vietnamese border and at the over Gulf of Tonkin. As well as with the Royal Air Force's Camberra reconnaissance aircraft and Hawker Hunter and English Electric Lightning fighters near to Hong Kong.

During the Second Indochina War the fighters of Guangzhou Military Region and Chinese South Sea Fleet shot down or damaged seven invader American combat aircraft and helicopter as well more reconnaissance UAV:

  • In 1965: USAF F-104C Starfighter and US Navy Douglas RA-3B Skywarrior
  • In 1966: US Navy Douglas KA-3B Skywarrior
  • In 1967: USAF F-4C Phantom II and US Navy F-4B Phantom II
  • In 1968: USAF Douglas A-1 Skyraider and US Army Bell AH-1 Cobra helicopter
  • Between 1964 and 1970: about twenty USAF AQM-34 reconnaissance drone

The Chinese air units used Soviet and Chinese made Shenyang J-5/MiG-17 ‘Fresco’, Shenyang J-6 (MiG-19) ‘Farmer’, Shenyang J-7/MiG-21F-13 ‘Fishbed-C’ fighters along the Sino-Vietnamese border and over the Gulf of Tonkin at this time. Later the China–United States relations normalized in the early seventies, the border violations and the US reconnaissance flights over China have ceased.

After the Second Indochina War, the Sino-Vietnamese relationship deteriorated, and the Guangzhou Military Region received again another important role. Therefore the Guangzhou Military Region's Air Force was the first to receive the Chinese made, high-speed Chengdu J-7I (MiG-21F-13) ‘Fishbed-C’ interceptor aircraft type at the end of the seventy years. At that time it was the most advanced type of the Chinese fighter aircraft.

Besides that the four air divisions of the Guangzhou Military Region's Air Force primarily used Shenyang J-6 (MiG-19) 'Farmer' fighter aircraft type at this time. Guangzhou Military Region's four air divisions took part in the Sino-Vietnamese war in 1979.

Right: Chinese propaganda photo: the older officer teaches the younger military pilot in front of the 42nd Air Division’s Shenyang J-6 (MiG-19) ‘Farmer’ fighter aircraft.

PLAAF Shenyang J-6 MiG-19 Farmer pilots

In 1979 the Chinese Air Force deployed about 7-8 Air Divisions to the Vietnamese border area. During the Sino-Vietnamese War neither the People's Liberation Army Air Force nor the Vietnamese Air Force flew any combat missions in direct support of their ground troops; nor did the Chinese air defense forces intercepted any Vietnamese aircraft along the border.

From 17 February to 16 March 1979, the PLAAF flew 8,500 sorties on the Chinese side of the border. And the transport aircrafts transported 1465 troops and 151 tons of materiel during 228 sorties. The helicopter sorties used to transport over 600 wounded soldiers from frontline hospitals to Nanning.

Chinese early J-7I MiG-21F-13 Fishbed-C

The along the Sino-Vietnamese border the Chinese 42th Air Division used early Chengdu J-7I (MiG-21F-13) ‘Fishbed-C’ interceptor type from the end of the seventies.

PLAAF Shenyang J-6 MiG-19S Farmer-C

The Chinese 9th Air Division / 26th Air Regiment’s Shenyang J-6 (MiG-19S) ‘Farmer-C’ row


Plaaf Shenyang J-6 MiG-19S Farmer-C underground tunel PLAAF Shenyang J-6 MiG-19S Farmer-C underground tunel door

The Chinese Air Force started constructing underground hangars as part of its large scale 1950s airfield construction effort. In the Guangzhou Military Region, the PLAAF build seven underground air bases. The 9th Air Division's Shaoguan airbase was constructed to house fighter aircraft and is equipped with two 12 meter hangar entrances, which yield an estimated tunnel length of ~750 meters. The two photos were taken about the 9th Air Division / 25th Air Regiment crew and their J-6 (MiG-19) fighter aircraft in the underground hangar and in front of hangar door.


Assessing PLA Underground Air Basing Capability (Extrenal link)


After the Sino-Vietnamese war, the Soviet Union fortified the Vietnamese People's Air Force. In the early eighties, the Vietnamese 371st and 372nd Divisions used nearly 160(!) Soviet-made MiG-21bis ‘Fishbed-N’ tactical fighter types with very modern air to air weapons at five fighter air regiments. The Soviet Union deployed one squadron advanced MiG-23MLD ‘Flogger-K’ fighters as well to Vietnam in the middle of the eighties.

So it was very urgent to modernize the Guangzhou Military Region's Air Force. Therefore, in the second half of the eighties the 2nd and the 9th Air Division received two or three regiment J-7IIH (MiG-21) ’Fishbed’ fighter types. The new J-7IIH version was equipped with PL-8 'Thunderbolt-8' air to air missile from the late eighties. The PL-8 is a Chinese air-to-air missile that originated from the Israeli Python-3 missile. Since the new PL-8 is 60% heavier than the older PL-2 missile, the Chengdu factory redesigned the aircraft's fuel system to balance the change of center of gravity.

PLAAF Chengdu H-7II MiG-21 Fishbed

Chinese pilot of the 9th Air Division in front of their Chengdu J-7IIH (MiG-21) ‘Fishbed-H’ fighters in the nineties

Chinese Shenyang J-6 MiG-19S Farmer-C

The 35th Air Division old metallic color J-6C (MiG-19S) ‘Farmer-C’ fighter after the millennium

When the Wuhan Military Region Air Force was disbanded in September 1985, the Wuhan MR Air Force's units (13th transport; 18th and the 27th fighter; 48th bomber air divisions; and the 15th Airborne Corps) were transferred to the Guangzhou Military Region Air Force.

PLAAF Guangzhou Military Region Air Force

Clarification is needed
** Replacing the former Wuhan MR Air Force Headquarters

PLAAF Guangzhou Military Region Air Force