China has created a new military force to develop capabilities for a contested zone deemed crucial for determining the outcome of future battles.
Dubbed the “Near-Space Command,” the service will serve as the fifth force of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) alongside the army, navy, air force, and rocket force.
According to researchers at the National University of Defence Technology in Hunan province, the new force will be responsible for defending the country against attacks that utilize the lower boundary of space.
It will be tasked with developing and deploying solar-powered drones and spy balloons for high-latitude surveillance and intelligence gathering.
The Chinese researchers clarified that the near-space combat force is still in development and that relevant units are not yet mature.
“Combat operations [in the near-space] have not been standardized. The understanding of near-space combat command needs to be deepened,” they said, as quoted by South China Morning Post.
Using Hypersonic Weapons
During a war, the Near-Space Force will have full control of China’s hypersonic weapons, including those in the inventory of the other four branches of the military.
The near-space area is too thin to support aircraft operations, so the new service will utilize weapons that travel more than five times the speed of sound and operate above 100 kilometers (62 miles) from Earth.
In order to effectively do that, Beijing will reportedly integrate a professional hypersonic weapons team for smoother operations in conflicts.
Together, the new force will be responsible for targeting heavily protected military assets and disrupting enemy war machines in the early stages of war.
China will tap commanders who possess impeccable decision-making skills and have a deep understanding of international strategy and national policies.