Join Date: Mar 2010
Small Arms Weapons Effectiveness in the 1979 Sino-Vietnamese War
Lieutenant Colonel Harold ‘Hal’ Moore in his after-action report on the Battle for IaDrang wrote:
The PLA infantry squad consisted of a forward scout group of three men with Type 56C (lightened AK-47 copies) carbines and hand grenades, a four man rifle group with Type 56 (AK-47) rifles and hand grenades, and a two man Type 56 (RPD) light machine gun with an assistant squad leader/marksmen among one the groups.
A PLA nine-man reconnaissance squad contained Type 56-2 and Type 64 and Type 79 7.62 x 25mm suppressed sub-machine guns. After the 1979 Sino-Vietnamese War Chinese forces incorporated captured M79 grenade launchers.
The Vietnamese Army, having been on the receiving end of United States firepower, and having captured vast amounts of US supplied materiel in 1975 and equipped its militia infantry squads with formidable firepower, knowing that high-explosive is the largest killer on the battlefield. A Vietnamese militia nine man squad had a six man rifle group containing AKMs, AK-47s and Type 56 assault rifles, hand grenades and importantly M-72 LAWs; a two man B41 (RPG-7 copy) rocket-propelled grenade group and a M-79 grenadier. This was anti-armour and fire support squad, and there were hundreds of them.
Selected Vietnamese militia marksmen were equipped with Russian 7.62 x 54mmR sniping rifles, although the weapon is more a marksman’s weapon.
The People’s Liberation Army had seriously underestimated the capability of the forces it went against. The Vietnamese Government relied on militia and territorial forces to blunt the PLA’s attacks and had provided weapons training for people in the border areas in the months before the attack. These citizen soldiers dan quan were backed up by regional forces dia phunog quan and enabled five regular or main force Vietnamese Army divisions to be kept in the rear to protect Hanoi and to defeat any breakthrough. There were two principal areas in the conflict, Lao Cai and Lang Son, which is southeast of Cao Bang. The fighting around Lao Cai involved eight PLA infantry divisions while the fighting around Lang Song involved 11 PLA infantry divisions. Due to the terrain, PLA armour and trucks were forced to travel along the few mountainous roads, and if they went off the road were channelled into columns. The area around Lang Son had narrow roads with steep sides, many commanding heights and was not heavily vegetated, containing very little jungle. By employing local knowledge the Vietnamese militia using mortars, land mines and ambushes with rocket propelled grenades, took a large toll of invading PLA units. The Type 62 light tanks suffered severely from RPG hits due to the close nature of the terrain.
Chinese tactics above the company level had atrophied during the Cultural Revolution. The Chinese fought a battle of attrition that wore down the Vietnamese defences but suffered horrendous casualties in the process. If a company failed to secure an objective a battalion was sent in, and if it failed, a regiment was used. It demonstrated that morale amongst the PLA was still strong as they were prepared to suffer heavy casualties to achieve victory, even if their tactical ability was poor. After the capture of Lang Son the Chinese media started to comment on the forces against which they fought. The Chinese media announced that the Vietnamese equipment was not as good as the Chinese had thought, that some were about 15 years old, and among the soldiers some were old men. Xinhua, the Chinese news service, reported: ‘In the pillboxes and bunkers around Lao Cai were large supplies of weapons, ammunition and rice, and most of the weapons and ammunition and all the rice came from China’. The PLA also discovered that some of this Chinese made equipment was newer than that used by some of their own units. These comments and discoveries were in line with the Vietnamese use of militia and territorial forces.
New Infantry Weapons Introduced into Service as a Result of the 1979 Sino-Vietnamese War
The PLA’s high casualty rate in the 1979 Sino-Vietnamese War saw a shakeup in the arming of the People’s Liberation Army infantry.
The effectiveness of the M-72 LAW impressed the PLA so much, that its technology and the 80mm warhead from the Type III anti-tank round developed for the Type 69 40mrocket propelled grenade launcher were mated into the PF-89 individual anti-tank rocket launcher.
The effect of the M-79 in combat saw the PLA border troops employ captured M-79 40mm grenade launchers, and the M203 underbarrel grenade launcher copied into the QLG91/Type 91 35mm rifle mounted grenade launcher.
The Russian SVD 7.62 x 54mmR SVD was copied as the Type 79/85 7.62x54mmR sniping rifle.
Last edited by davidbfpo; 11-25-2014 at 10:32 AM. Reason: Hal Moore's comments in quotes
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