The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is conducting a routine planned naval exercise in the Western Pacific this week, Xinhua reports.
Liang Yang, a military spokesperson of the PLAN stated that Chinese navy vessels and military aircraft passed through the eastern portion of the Bashi Channel, situated between Taiwan and the Philippines, this morning.
The vessels and aircraft went on to conduct several drills that simulated real combat conditions in the waters east of the Bashi Channel, including long-range precision strikes and aerial combat. The exercise is part of the PLAN’s annual training plan and was “in line with international laws and practices,” according to the military spokesperson.
“During the drills there was no impact upon freedom of navigation or fly-through in the relevant seas or air,” he additionally noted. He did not supply specific information on what type of vessels and aircraft, as well as the number involved in the exercise.
“Going forward, similar drills and exercises will keep taking place,” Liang Yang emphasized. With ever increasing tensions on China’s maritime frontier, the spokesperson was at pains to emphasize that “[t]he drill is not directed at any specific country, regions or targets.”
The PLAN announced this week on it official Weibo microblog page that the waters east of the Bashi Channel have been designated as one of two training areas – the other being Miyakato Strait – for routine drills and exercises conducted by the Chinese navy.
Sputnik News reports that PLAN is simultaneously also involved in the second stage of the joint Sino-Russian “Joint Sea 2015” maritime exercises in Russia’s Far Eastern Primorsky Territory, which is taking place on June 8-11 and will include, among other things, amphibious assault drills.
According to the Office of Naval Intelligence, the PLAN currently field a little over 300 surface combatants, submarines, amphibious ships, and missile-armed patrol craft. China’s recently published defense white paper outlines the PLANs future naval ambitions:
In line with the strategic requirement of offshore waters defense and open seas protection, the PLA Navy (PLAN) will gradually shift its focus from “offshore waters defense” to the combination of “offshore waters defense” with “open seas protection,” and build a combined, multi-functional and efficient marine combat force structure. The PLAN will enhance its capabilities for strategic deterrence and counterattack, maritime maneuvers, joint operations at sea, comprehensive defense and comprehensive support.
However, a recently published study by the RAND Corporation notes that the PLAN still needs to overcome various challenges before it can fulfill the vision outlined in the excerpt above:
Chief among these challenges is the integration of increasingly complex modern weapons and equipment platforms. Equally important is the training of PLAN personnel who are not currently fully prepared to operate or maintain them, which appears to be a major concern for the Chinese navy, given the volume of PLA literature published on this issue. Other challenges include the mastery of such capabilities as antisubmarine warfare (ASW) and amphibious operations, where the PLA has significant limitations.