Chinese soldiers are using virtual reality to prepare for fighting in built-up areas if a recent video on social media is anything to go by.
Beijing seems to have calculated that even a restrained coercive annexation is likely to escalate if Taiwan continues to hold out while being armed by the United States (US).
Thus, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is preparing for street battles in Taipei in a classic urban warfare scenario as it would conduct military operations – if it comes down to it.
Such a scenario would be ugly, devastating, and fraught with severe casualties on both sides, triggering its own set of domestic and international repercussions, beside the economic impact on the entire region.
What Does The Video Show
The short 30-second clip showed around six soldiers wearing electronic gear attached to their torsos, backs, arms, and VR goggles strapped around their eyes. There are plain walls sectioned into rooms in the enclosed training facility.
The soldiers keep moving around and firing their simulated guns, appearing to take on another team and a room-to-room clearing operation. The video twice cuts to the computer’s perspective, showing the team from an elevated position, assigning names and codes to each ‘player,’ with the characters appearing in an animated format.
The soldiers are from a People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) marine unit. The soldier’s perspective is not shown, owing to which it is difficult to see the precise scenario in which the VR simulation training is taking place, i.e., whether a counter-terrorist operation, hostage rescue, or urban warfare in a city.
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 in contact with civilian-military resistance.
Part Of Taiwan Operation Drills?
But the series of Chinese military exercises around Taiwan immediately after US Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit and the subsequent drills have been noted to be highly specific. This implies China is working out engaging Taiwanese air and ground defenses, preparing for a military recourse if diplomacy fails.
Thus, the current video can also be considered part of the training for a Taiwan operation.
China appears to be preparing for the full range of military maneuvers, including encirclement, blockade, coercion, limited strikes, air campaign, ground assault/amphibious operations, and holding territory for political takeover/assimilation.
The measures will be executed progressively after thoroughly exhausting their utility to extract the political goal out of Taiwan – declare itself a territory of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and give up political aspirations of nationhood and independence.
A military operation on Taiwan will likely be a seamless extension of the various exercises and Air Defense Identification Zones (ADIZ) violations that occur daily and will unfold fluidly without Taiwan or the US even realizing it.
Computer Games Aren’t A Waste Of Time!
Previous reports have shown China using VR and simulation training for urban warfare. In March 2021, a PLAN logistics support unit under the Northern Theatre Command used VR to carry out a “wartime fuel support drill.”
“The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has started to use virtual reality (VR) technologies in training as it allows officers and soldiers to gain enhanced combat capability more efficiently,” a report in the state-owned Global Times said.
“The availability of training sites, weather conditions, or the consumption of equipment does not restrict the VR training platform. This means we can enhance training efficiency and shorten the period combat capability is generated,” PLA Daily quoted another official.
An April 2022 report published in the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) on the PLA’s outlook on urban warfare said it has been working with private companies to “enhance the realism and impact of PLA training environments.”
“The PLA’s National University of Defense Technology also sought to acquire an urban warfare visual simulation system as of fall 2021, but the details were limited,” the report said.
President Xi Jinping has longed to exhort Chinese military personnel to undertake training in “realistic combat scenarios,” especially after the Ladakh border standoff with India in May 2020.
A section of military experts has long pointed out how advances in graphics designing and software technology can allow actual combat situations to be an extension of the simulation training.
“Combat pilots being trained on simulators, especially new aircraft, has been common for decades. For infantry training, it should not be dismissed since it helps with refining the series of mental reflexes required for quick shooting and decision-making, if not the physical element,” said a retired Indian Army Colonel-rank infantry officer who was involved with a private company that develops training simulators for security agencies.