|Chinese President Xi Jinping (R front), who is also chairman of the Central Military Commission, meets with air force officers while inspecting the air force's command headquarters on April 14, 2014.(Xinhua Photo)|
During an inspection visit to the People's Liberation Army air force headquarters in Beijing on Monday, Xi, also chairman of the Central Military Commission, said the air force plays a decisive role in national security as well as military strategy, and he requested it to have balanced strength in defensive and offensive operations, PLA Daily reported on its website.
He talked with commanders and officers on the PLA air force's development and preparations for military operations, saying they must focus on training that boosts combat capability.
The air force must make sure it can "swiftly and effectively" deal with possible emergencies, Xi said. He also asked it to optimize its structure and allocate more resources in a "new-type combat force".
Xi was shown a drill in handling air contingencies and praised the involved units for their "high vigilance, rapid response, outstanding skills and performance", the report said.
Wang Ya'nan, deputy editor-in-chief of Aerospace Knowledge magazine in Beijing, said Xi's call for integrated air and space capability is to answer the need of the times.
"The United States has paid considerable attention and resources to the integration of capabilities in both air and space, and other powers have also moved progressively toward space militarization," he said. "Though China has stated that it sticks to the peaceful use of space, we must make sure that we have the ability to cope with others' operations in space."
The US air force declared in 2000 that air and space form a single "seamless operational medium" for the exercise of military power, and it would refocus its training and operating concepts to reflect that view.
The idea of combining air and space capability is not new to the Chinese air force as a host of experts have underscored the importance of space.
Senior Colonel Wu Guohui, an associate professor at the PLA National Defense University, told People's Daily in an earlier report that the PLA air force had unfolded a series of research projects aimed at keeping pace with the latest space technologies.
He said space-based information can reshape air combat and space vehicles would be the key to forming an air-and-space weaponry system.
The construction of a modern air-defense and anti-missile apparatus could be achieved through the integration of air and space capabilities, according to Wu.
Dong Wenxian, a retired researcher with the PLA air force headquarters, was quoted by PLA Daily as saying that NATO countries had actively adopted various space platforms to support reconnaissance, early warning, communication and positioning in every conflict since the first Gulf War, which indicates such platforms play a vital role in modern warfare.
He said China began to realize the significance of integrated air and space capability in the early 1990s and has begun offering courses on this issue in air force academies.