PLA starts maritime drills featuring 'powerful ammunition' on doorstep of S. China Sea

By Liu Xuanzun Source: Global Times Published: 2020/7/25 18:59:37 Last Updated: 2020/7/25 20:54:55

File photo shows a Chinese H-6K bomber patrolling islands and reefs including Huangyan Dao in the South China Sea. Photo: Xinhua

The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) is holding live-fire drills with powerful ammunition near Leizhou Peninsula of South China's Guangdong Province, on the doorstep of the South China Sea, starting Saturday, amid continuous US military provocations in the region.

The drills likely feature anti-ship and anti-aircraft exercises by warplanes of the PLA Air Force, said a Chinese military expert, who also hopes to see the drills to include other military branches including the Navy and Rocket Force in joint operations, and China's anti-aircraft carrier ballistic missiles.

According to a notice released by the PLA Unit 95180 via local media Beihai Television on Thursday, the drills will be conducted in two phases. The first phase is from Saturday to Monday, in a large, roughly rectangle-shaped area in the waters off the Leizhou Peninsula to the west, and the second phase is from Tuesday to August 2, in a smaller circle with an eight-kilometer-radius in the same region.

It also said the live-fire exercises will cover an extensive area with powerful ammunition, and the general public should not enter the designated sea areas.

The notice did not reveal any further detail on the drills.

According to publicly available information, including a report on Beihai city government's website, the Unit 95180 is affiliated with the PLA Air Force.

Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times on Saturday that maritime live-fire drills by the air force usually include shooting aircraft and surface vessels. Such drills could train securing air superiority and target hostile warships in the South China Sea.

The guided-missile frigate Hengyang (Hull 568) attached to a destroyer flotilla with the navy under the PLA Southern Theater Command fires its close-in weapons system at a mock sea target during a maritime live-fire training exercise in waters of the South China Sea on June 18, 2020.File photo:China Military

In an analysis article on Friday, Ordnance Industry Science Technology, a Xi'an-based magazine on the national defense industry, highlighted the wording in the PLA notice of "powerful ammunition". It said ballistic missiles in the DF series of the PLA Rocket Force should be among the first to be identified as powerful ammunition.

Song said that he would be eager to see the drills feature more military branches, with the Navy and Rocket Force joining in a coordinated joint operation.

In a potential anti-ship exercise featuring the Rocket Force, ballistic missiles can target large surface vessels, and heavy anti-ship cruise missiles could also conduct long-range strike from 300 to 400 kilometers away, Song said.

The PLA drills come at a time when the US military has been making increasing excursions into the South China Sea for reconnaissance and exercises with warplanes and warships, which experts said may increase the possibility for military skirmishes with China.

Drills by the PLA can show its actual combat capability in potential conflict with the US forces in all territories and fields, and can serve as a major deterrence that demonstrates the PLA's determination to safeguard national sovereignty and development interests, Song said.

In other drills in the South China Sea, JH-7A fighter bombers affiliated with the PLA Southern Theater Command Navy recently conducted live-fire shooting training on sea surface targets, Navy H-6 bombers ran nighttime patrol missions in the South China Sea from Monday to Wednesday, and Y-8 anti-submarine aircraft held multiple anti-submarine training sessions in early July, according to media releases by the PLA.

Posted in: MILITARY

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