CHINA / MILITARY
PLA Navy holds consecutive support exercises in S.China Sea; ‘crucial to combat’
Published: Mar 23, 2021 08:38 PM
The close-in weapon system of the amphibious dock landing ship <em>Wuzhishan</em> (Hull 987) fires at the mock target at sea during the actual combat training organized by a naval landing ship flotilla under the PLA Southern Theater Command in late February, 2021. Photo:China Military

The close-in weapon system of the amphibious dock landing ship Wuzhishan (Hull 987) fires at the mock target at sea during the actual combat training organized by a naval landing ship flotilla under the PLA Southern Theater Command in late February, 2021. Photo:China Military

The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy recently held consecutive support exercises in the South China Sea including maritime re-supply, minesweeping, and search and rescue, with analysts saying on Tuesday that such capabilities are crucial to combat and could decide the outcome of a war.

With the aim of enhancing the capability of comprehensively and accurately supporting maritime combat under all circumstances, the Type 908 replenishment ship Qinghaihu recently conducted support exercises for several consecutive days in the South China Sea, China Central Television (CCTV) reported on Monday.

During the exercises, the Qinghaihu destroyed suspected sea mines, conducted  water and fuel replenishment for the Type 054A guided missile frigate Hengshui, and conducted training involving vessel-based helicopters, including vertical re-supply, evacuation of the wounded, and landing and takeoff, CCTV said.

In a separate drill conducted by the PLA Southern Theater Command in waters off South China's Guangdong Province, the Type 071 amphibious landing ship Wuzhishan conducted multidimensional joint search and rescue exercises for missing sailors with helicopters and boats, CCTV reported on Sunday.

While these logistics support operations are not directly involved in fighting the enemy, they are crucial to combat because they can keep combatants on the frontline and suppress the enemy by providing constant supplies and support, as large volumes of ammunition and materials are consumed and equipment potentially requires maintenance and repair, Wei Dongxu, a Beijing-based military expert, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

The PLA Navy's far sea combat capability is seeing a significant boost thanks to the commissioning of aircraft carriers and large destroyers as well as support vessels, which directly determine how long flotillas can stay and fight at long distances from home, Wei said.

A military conflict in the South China Sea or the Taiwan Straits would also require intensive logistics support, and in this aspect, the PLA will have the upper hand at home over countries from outside of the region, which provoke although they are far away from home, Chinese military observers said.

According to a report by Beijing-based think tank the South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative (SCSPI) released earlier this month, the US military repeatedly deployed strategic weapons platforms, including aircraft carrier strike groups, to the South China Sea in 2020 in unprecedented moves that aimed to deter China.

On Monday, the US sent a spy plane to conduct a close-in reconnaissance of China's southern coastal regions, setting a new record for the closest approach to China's coastlines, the SCSPI revealed. The US military activity coincided with live-fire exercises held by the PLA in the region.


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