PLAN Naval Drill: China Practices for ‘Cruel and Short’ War in East China Sea

The military exercise involved about 300 vessels from the PLAN’s East Sea, North Sea, and South Sea Fleets.

The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) held a large-scale naval exercise in the East China Sea involving around 300 ships, dozens of fighter aircraft and ground troops including coastal defense units, according to Chinese media reports.  The naval drill, which began on August 1, involved live-firing practices and the launch of dozens of anti-ship missiles and torpedoes, among other things.

The naval maneuver took place on the anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army on August 1 in 1927. China’s Ministry of Defense called it “routine” and not intended to threaten third parties. “The drill is aimed at honing the assault intensity, precision, stability and speed of troops amid heavy electromagnetic influences, “a PLAN statement noted. An information technology-based war at sea is sudden, cruel and short, which requires fast transition to combat status, quick preparation and high assault efficiency.”

Units of all three principal PLAN formations—the East Sea, North Sea, and South Sea Fleets—participated in the exercise.  “The drill focused more on training in actual combat conditions, as well as to test the technology in our weapons systems. We wanted to see how our planning and performance of our weapons and vessels would perform under real combat scenarios to ensure we’re ready to deal with any maritime security threats,” Vice-Admrial Su Zhiqian, the commander of the East China Sea Fleet told reporters.

The drill consisted of a number of combat scenarios that involved testing the PLAN’s reconnaissance, early warning, long-range precision strikes and air and missile defense capabilities. It also included the tracking and simulated aerial attack on a submarine. A video of the exercise showed a Type 052D Luyang III-class destroyer, equipped with the so-called Chinese Aegis combat system, a Type 056A Jiangdao-class corvette a Kilo-class diesel-electric attack submarine (All but four of 12 are fitted with SS-N-27 anti-ship cruise missiles with a range of approximately 120 nautical miles), Ka-28 Helix anti-submarine warfare helicopters, and J-8F Shenyang fighter aircraft, among other things.

The Chinese military has stepped up its military activities in the South and East China Seas in recent weeks following the July 12 ruling by The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) over maritime entitlements and the legal status of features claimed by both China and the Philippines in the South China Sea. China and Russia will also hold a joint naval drill in the South China Sea this September.

“Given that the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) North and East Sea Fleets hosted previous Sino-Russian naval drills, it appears likely that this year’s iteration of the Joint-Sea exercise will be hosted by the Nanhai [South Sea] Fleet, the PLAN fleet responsible for the South China Sea,” I noted last month.