PLA holds cross-regional naval drills in South China Sea amid US-Philippines exercise
Published: Oct 09, 2023 07:22 PM
The guided-missile destroyer Dalian (Hull 105) attached to the PLA Southern Theater Command sails during a far-sea joint training drill in early April, 2023. Photo:

The guided-missile destroyer Dalian (Hull 105) attached to the PLA Southern Theater Command sails during a far-sea joint training drill in early April, 2023. Photo:


The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) recently organized some of its most powerful warships to conduct a series of naval drills across several regions in the South China Sea, a move experts said on Monday displays China's capabilities in safeguarding national sovereignty and territorial integrity amid a US and Philippine joint exercise allegedly targeting Chinese islands and reefs.

Several vessels attached to a destroyer detachment affiliated with the navy of the PLA Southern Theater Command recently carried out a coordinated offense and defense exercise under realistic combat conditions in the South China Sea, the PLA Navy said in a press release on Sunday.

The Type 055 10,000 ton-class guided missile destroyer Yan'an (Hull 106), the Type 052D guided missile destroyer Hefei (Hull 174), a conventional submarine and a Z-9 anti-submarine helicopter were among forces that participated in the exercise, photos attached to the press release show.

During the exercise that lasted for many days, the flotilla crossed several sea regions, completed training such as anti-submarine warfare, live-fire light arms shooting as well as takeoff and landing of vessel-borne helicopters, the press release said.

During one of the drills, the Hefei detected several waves of aerial targets approaching the flotilla, which quickly mobilized to take advantageous positions and use anti-aircraft fire to intercept them.

In addition to non-stop aerial threats, the flotilla also dealt with surface and underwater threats.

To recon the underwater situation, an anti-submarine helicopter took off and headed toward the suspected enemy area to conduct searches and checks in coordination with the vessels' sonar systems, while the Hefei released a small boat to conduct close-in reconnaissance of the suspect surface target as the flotilla switched to tactical assault formation and raised the alert status.

One of the warships fired its main gun and destroyed the surface target, and flares were shot to stop air targets from approaching.

After several rounds of strikes, the flotilla was ordered to move to another region to conduct a back-to-back confrontational drill, practicing the reconstruction of the flotilla regional air defense system and taking advantage of the new-type warships' advancements.

The exercise accelerated the integration of the new-type warships into the joint operational system and effectively enhanced the flotilla's capabilities in carrying out diverse military operations, the PLA Navy said.

Featuring air, surface and underwater elements, the exercise included some of the PLA Navy's main combat vessels, a Chinese military expert who requested anonymity told the Global Times on Monday.

It was a comprehensive drill that displayed the PLA South Sea Fleet's high level of combat readiness, the expert said.

The drill in the South China Sea is announced at a time when the US and the Philippines are holding the 12-day multilateral Exercise SAMASAMA around Luzon, the Philippines, from October 2 to Friday, which VOA said on Saturday targets China with a focus on China's Huangyan Dao (also known as Huangyan Island).

Analysts said that the Chinese exercise was a routine one that does not target any third party, but displayed the PLA's capabilities in defending national sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as safeguarding peace and stability in the South China Sea.

Since August, the Philippines has been provoking China by sending vessels to trespass into waters near Chinese islands and reefs in the South China Sea and hyping up Chinese interceptions.

Chinese naval expert Zhang Junshe told the Global Times that the Philippines has no military advantage facing China, and the US will never engage China in a military conflict on behalf of the Philippines.

The US is only using the Philippines as a pawn to contain China, so the Philippines should not misjudge the situation, Zhang said.