China is Building a Blue Army in the Metaverse 

By Josh Baughman

October 21, 2022

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) use of the term “Blue Army” is similar to the concept of “Red Team” in the United States military.   For the PLA, blue army refers to the simulated enemy in training exercises.  Historically, a designated group of PLA soldiers will act as the adversary in various training scenarios.  Under a major strategic push by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the PLA are working on creating a new blue army on a customizable, interactive, and powerful all-element joint combat simulation platform that can be utilized by all services in the PLA.  Artificial simulations have been used in the past by the PLA, mainly at an individual service level [i].  The new aim, as seen in recent PLA writings, is to build a blue army that simulates all aspects of a potential conflict, perfectly mimicking command decision-making behavior of the enemy.  This idea has also been explored in PLA writings within their broader plans to build a military metaverse (also known as the “battleverse”) [ii].   If the PLA is able to create an accurate virtual simulation of their adversaries at a comprehensive level it will allow them to improve their operational concepts and techniques much more rapidly while minimizing their costs.  They will be able to identify weaknesses and even possible blind spots in their military capabilities. Effective implementation of blue army simulation will create a better prepared and more lethal force. 

CCP Simulated Blue Army Push 

In the 18th Party Congress in 2012 Xi Jinping laid out a new “three step strategy” [“三步走”战略] for national defense and military modernization to be met by 2035 [iii]. Of the three steps, the third focused on promoting the strengthening of the military through science and technology.  In this third step, Xi demanded, “Innovation should be placed at the core of the overall construction and development of our military” [1].   Combat effectiveness can see a “new leap forward” if independent innovation capability of national defense science and technology is improved.  In 2018, Xi re-emphasized this sentiment stating, “We are closer than any time in history to the objective of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, and we need more than any time in history to build China into a world science and technology superpower!” [2]

To continue the strategy emphasizing innovation in the PLA, the Central Military Commission's 2021 training mobilization order signed by President Xi stated that the construction of simulation, networking, and confrontational means should be strengthened, and training methods such as "technology +" and "network +" [iv] should be explored to greatly improve the technological content of training [3].  Heavy emphasis was placed on, “the development of simulation training to be regularized, scientific, and actual combat, so that it can become an "incubator" and "multiplier" for the generation of new combat power” [4].   The overarching goal was to upgrade training effectiveness in order to increase overall combat power.

In a follow-up to the CMC mobilization order, the Ministry of National Defense (MND), held a three day seminar focused on transforming and upgrading training with a simulated blue army. Heavy emphasis was placed on a high-level training support system, enhancing scientific and technological research and improving the overall cost-effectiveness of PLA training exercises.  On the MND website in an article covering the seminar they stated, “Training bases and simulated blue forces are the basic support for troops to carry out various types of training activities at all levels, and are key to this generation of combat power” [5]. The essential conclusion of the seminar is that a better simulated blue army using advanced technology will accelerate combat readiness for future conflicts. 

Precursor to a Blue Army in the Battleverse  

In a recent article on Xinhua’s website “AI Blue Army Becomes the "Whetstone" of Air Combat” the authors write, “Today, military training reforms supported by simulation, information network, and artificial intelligence are accelerating, and soldiers will increasingly "learn war" and "rehearse war" in front of the screen” [6].   The use of AI blue army simulations is growing throughout the PLA, but has been utilized the most within the PLA Air Force (PLAAF).  In the Xinhua article the authors are on site at a PLAAF simulation training center [v] in the Central Theater Command. Brigade Commander Du Jianfeng [杜建峰] states that in recent years, they have deeply integrated virtual simulation into daily combat training tasks to promote the transformation and upgrading of the military [7].   Du believes virtual simulation is an important part of flight training and plays an irreplaceable role in enhancing training benefits, saving training costs, and reducing flight risks. He mentions that early AI blue army adversaries were relatively unsophisticated and easy to beat, but with continuous use of the program, an increase in the technology and larger data sets, the pilots are given a true challenge that translates well in live training sessions.   Technology, like PLAAF’s pilot simulations, will be integrated into a more sophisticated system as the battleverse matures and is implemented at the joint level in the PLA. 

Image: PLAAF Simulation Training [8]

Building the Blue Army

In a recent article published in the PLA Daily titled, “Build an Intelligent Blue Army with Both Form and Spirit” delves into how to actually build a better simulated blue army [9].  The idea, as the authors reflect, is to build a blue army with the “command decision-making behavior and combat action process” of their adversaries.  They want to build a blue army that possesses both the “form and spirit” [形神兼备] of their enemies referencing the adage, “know the enemy, match the enemy, surpass the enemy, and defeat the enemy" [知敌、像敌、超敌、胜敌] [10].  The authors explain three core elements to simulate a blue army including a modular platform, knowledge base and AI models as described in the table below. 

The authors argue that with these elements to build a simulated blue army they will be better able to understand their enemy because they are effectively combining human thought and machine.  Without the utilization of AI models, many aspects of an adversary would be missed. The article concludes with the quote, “Victory only smiles to those who can foresee changes in the character of war. Whomever dares to take a new path will have a clear advantage in using new warfare methods to win” [11].   By building a highly accurate, adaptive and intelligent blue army combat effectiveness will be accelerated and the “fog of war” will be minimized. 


The key to victory in war is objectively understanding yourself, both strengths and weaknesses, and your adversary. PLA Daily writer Liu Yuanyuan sums this up well writing, “We must understand the objective reality of ourselves, our opponents, and the future battlefield environment, so that we can formulate clever war designs and strategies and tactics that are superior to the enemy [12].   Future wars will be complex and unpredictable.   If the PLA are able to build a simulated blue army accurate in “form and spirit” they will have a major advantage in future conflicts.  

Opinions, conclusions, and recommendations expressed or implied within are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the Air University, the Department of the Air Force, the Department of Defense, or any other U.S. government agency. Cleared for public release: distribution unlimited.


[i] Particularly by the PLA Air Force (PLAAF)

[ii] Read “Enter the Battleverse: China's Metaverse War” to learn more about how the PLA plans to use the metaverse in the future:

[iii] Recent front page article in PLA Daily maintains the 2035 date as the target for military modernization of doctrine, organization, personnel, equipment as part of the three-step process.

[iv] Technology+ and Network+ are buzz words used in China to emphasize the potential impact they will have on all aspects of society.

[v] United States Air Force is also moving toward a paradigm of simulator training known as the “common synthetic environment” that will create non-proprietary, interchangeable training devices and environments for aircrews to train, conduct mission rehearsals, and even test new weapons and other capabilities in a virtual environment.  In an interview Lt. Col. David R. Clementi, Commander of the 29th Training Systems Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base stated, “the importance of the synthetic environment, equal to if not in some areas eclipsing the importance of lifelike missions when it comes to mission rehearsal, and some training aspects and test aspects.”  Read more about this paradigm shift here:


[1] “Ten Years of Strengthening the Army, Historic Achievements in National Defense and Army Construction and Historic Changes” [强军十年,国防和军队建设取得历史性成就发生历史性变革]. PLA Daily.” Accessed July 29, 2022.

[2] “Xi Jinping: ‘Strive to Become the World’s Primary Center for Science and High Ground for Innovation.’” DigiChina. Accessed August 11 , 2022.

[3] “‘AI Blue Army’ Becomes the ‘Whetstone’ of Air Combat” [“AI蓝军”成为空战“磨刀石”]. Xinhua. Accessed August 11, 2022.

[4] Ibid.

[5] “Transformation and Upgrading of Our Military Training Bases and Simulated Blue Army Construction”. [我军训练基地和模拟蓝军建设转型升级].Ministry of National Defense of the People’s Republic of China.” Accessed August 11, 2022.

[6] “‘AI Blue Army’ Becomes the ‘Whetstone’ of Air Combat” [“AI蓝军”成为空战“磨刀石”]. Xinhua. Accessed August 11, 2022.

[7] Ibid. 

[8] “Using ‘Technology +’ to Empower Military Training and Prepare for Battle.” Accessed August 16, 2022.

[9] Wang Yuxiang, Ji Ning, Hu Jianwen. [王宇翔 吉宁 胡剑文]. “Build an Intelligent Blue Army with ‘Both Form and Spirit’” [构建“形神兼备”的智能蓝军]. PLA Daily. Accessed August 3, 2022. 

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Liu Yuanyuan.[刘媛媛].  “Designing War Based on Objective Reality”. [立足客观实际设计战争]. PLA Daily.” Accessed August 16, 2022.

About the Author

Josh Baughman currently serves as an Analyst at Air University’s China Aerospace Studies Institute (CASI) and as Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of the Military Cyber Professionals Association (MCPA). He has also served on the staff of the National Defense University (NDU) College of Information and Cyberspace (CIC) as well as the US Air Force Academy, and as a national security journalist in Beijing, and Boren Fellow at Tsinghua University.