China’s state media has reported that it has shortlisted around two dozen private companies for the supply of unmanned weaponry and graphene clothing to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops deployed in the high-altitude border areas with India. The clothing made of graphene is a revolutionary form of carbon. It was discovered by physicists Andra Geim and Konstantine Novoselov and they were even awarded the prestigious Nobel Prize in Physics for its discovery in 2010.
Apart from that, the PLA is also looking for advanced logistical support like portable oxygenerators, portable solar chargers and a multifunctional dining vehicle.
It indicates that China is working towards mixing its military needs with the technology that is available in the civilian sector. It is an effort to leverage logistical capabilities and civilian service for army purposes while the standoff is going on with India across the LAC border for months.
A few of the private companies which are based in South China and specialize in drone technology, are well-known to manufacture vertical takeoff and landing unmanned vehicles, and can take off at high altitudes.
It is a rare sight when the Chinese army disclose the name of the private companies from which it plans to buy military equipment. It shows that China, which is the world’s largest military force, is expanding the supply from state-owned enterprises and buying specialized equipment from private companies. China Central Television (CCTV) and Global Times reported that the PLA’s Tibet Command invited 22 private companies for a meeting to review their products to be used during potential warfare and national defense.
The report didn’t specify exactly which Chinese company manufactures graphene clothes. Dailytechlife.com, a website which tracks technology and innovation, said that the graphene clothes could be thermal, waterproof and fireproof and can have other advanced technologies which are not found in normal clothes.
China has been planning to merge its military and civil sectors and its decision to invite private companies can be called a step in this direction. The USA’s defense department said in its annual report on Chinese military in September that China’s long-term goal is to create an entirely self-reliant sector made up of a strong civilian industrial and technology sector.