Missile destroyer Hefei opens live fire drill in Baltic Sea

By Guo Yuandan in Baltiysk Source:Global Times Published: 2017/7/26 16:18:39

A helicopter flies over China’s Hefei in Baltic Sea Tuesday. Photo: CFP

Following the order of Tian Zhong, vice admiral of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy, the missile destroyer Hefei departed from the naval port of Baltiysk, marking the beginning of the Russian-Chinese "Joint Sea 2017" naval drills.

During an opening ceremony, senior naval officers from China and Russia reiterated that the military exercises are not aimed at any third party and have nothing to do with the regional situation.

The Global Times reporter boarded Hefei and witnessed the joint air defense drill and live gun-firing practice in the first phase of the joint drills that runs from July 21 to 28 in the Baltic Sea.

The vessels are divided into two tactical groups of combined formations.

The first tactical group consists of Russia's frigate Boiky, China's Hefei and one of Russia's towboats, while the second tactical group consists of China's missile frigate Yuncheng, Russian corvette Soobrazitelny and China's comprehensive supply ship Luomahu. The first group was commanded by Boiky while the second was led by Yuncheng.

On Tuesday, the practice was intended to test the shooting capacity of sub cannons and their ability to counter air strike weapons.

The practice was preceded by ship formation and movement, which is the basic component of any joint drill, displaying cooperation ability of the participating warships.

Zhao Yanquan, captain of the Hefei, told the Global Times that "during the movement, the size difference of naval vessels will affect their veer rudder angles." Naval officers of the two sides had discussed the details several times.

Although the two countries have conducted naval drills for six consecutive years, due to the differences in rules, command and operating habits, every detail needs to be discussed carefully, said Zhao.

Zhang Yunpeng, commander of sub cannon shooting of the Hefei, told the Global Times that the challenge of the practice lies in the change in the environment.

"Accurate combat requires knowledge of local hydrology, meteorology, visibility, target material, velocity, flow and even sunshine. Due to the difference in sea environment and meteorological conditions, shooting data will change and it needs impromptu judgment," said Zhang adding that sub cannon shooting needs cooperation of different departments including navigation, information and communication.

Practice highlight

This is the first time for the missile destroyer Hefei to participate in the joint naval drills and make a debut at the international stage. As China's most advanced guided-missile destroyer, the Hefei is the highlight of the exercise. Asked why the Hefei did not take the lead position in the first tactical group and if it was related to its relatively short service time and equipment performance, Zhao denied the suspicion and said that it was the result of joint negotiation by the officers.

Just as a professional soldier who has a clear understanding of his duty and status and works hard to accomplish the task, the mission of the Hefei, as a part of the first tactical group, is to cooperate with other vessels to accomplish its assignment, said Zhao.

Since June 18, China's naval vessels have passed Indian Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean and crossed the Strait of Malacca, the Suez Canal, the Gibraltar Channel and the English Channel.

Zhang said that the long-range, constant navigation proved that China's military equipment is of good quality. And, it also effectively tested the cooperation between "human and machine." Under a complex environment, Chinese soldiers are never afraid of problems and always learn to adapt and solve the problem.

The Hefei was enlisted in December 2015 and accomplished all needed exercises in March 2016, in half the normal time frame. Within less than five months, the advanced destroyer, taking the role of command ship, joined a series of far-sea trainings within Chinese navy's South China Sea Fleet and entered the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean.

Zhang Huiyao, a naval officer, told the Global Times that the Hefei, equipped with complex radar and air defense system and strong combat ability, is capable of detecting long-distance targets.

With the rapid development of China's navy and the growing demand to protect the country's legitimate interests overseas, China's naval vessels are entering the blue seas.

However, the navy's extending trajectory in the seas, such as the joint naval drills with Russia in the Baltic Sea, and a PLA Navy intelligence vessel's voyage close to the northeast coast of Australia, have drawn global attention.

"The Chinese navy's operations can't be considered as 'high-profile.' The PLA has actively increased military exchanges with other countries, and participated in many missions like international peace-keeping, overseas escort duties, humanitarian rescue and disaster relief, and these have displayed the good image and responsibility of a major power's military force," Chinese defense ministry spokesperson Wu Qian said Monday at a press conference held by the State Council Information Office in Beijing.

Newspaper headline: Sailing in unfamiliar waters

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