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East Sea Fleet [ESF]

The East Sea (Donghai) Fleet traces its lineage to the establishment by the CMC in April 1949 of the East China Military Region Navy Headquarters in Taizhou, Jiangsu Province. The unit was redesignated as the East Sea Fleet in October 1955 and the headquarters was transferred to Ningbo sometime following that date.

The commander of the East Sea Fleet is also the deputy commander of the Nanjing Military Region.

The flagship of the fleet is the J 302 Chongmingdao.

The ESF is responsible for defending the area from the Shandong/Jiangsu provincial border southward to the Fujian/Guangdong provincial border.

The ESF shore establishment includes naval bases, support facilities, and Communications/Observation Posts.

Knowledge of the organizational structure of the East Sea Fleet's afloat force is limited and plagued by several accounts or descriptions.

In 1993, the afloat force, according to a declassified ONI document dated December 1993, consisted of two submarine flotillas, one destroyer flotilla, one landing ship flotilla, and two missile/torpedo attack flotillas as well as a number of independent and auxiliary units. Specific unit designations were not provided.

The greatest degree of conflict centers around the issue of destroyer flotillas. A report from the Taiwan based Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies, also from 1993, identified at least two flotillas, the 3rd at Jiaotou and the 8th at Wusong.

In 1999 Srikanth Kondapalli wrote that the East Sea Fleet was comprised of two destroyer squadrons, and Bernard Cole, both in his 2000 essay on the PLAN's organizational structure, and in his 2001 book on the Chinese Navy concurs. Kondapalli indicates that the expansion from one destroyer/escort flotilla to two took place sometime since 1967, but does not offer any additional clarification.

Multiple editions of the Directory of PRC Military Personalities only lists one destroyer zhidui (the 6th), though the 2002 edition's listing of the three frigates at the Shanghai base possibly indicates that a destroyer/frigate zhidui is probably at that location as well.

Jane's Fighting Ships 2002-03 does list three destroyer/frigate flotillas as being under the direction of the East Sea Fleet but Jane's Sentinel - China and Northeast Asia: January 2001 - May 2001 only indicates the presence of two flotillas.

All available sources agree that their are two submarine flotillas in ESF, the 22nd with roughly 10 Romeo's and the 42nd with 4 Kilo's and roughly 4 Ming class submarines. There is some debate as to where these submarines are located, as the Directory of PRC Military Personalities lists an unidentified unit at Zhoushan and unidentified unit at Zhejiang while Jane's Sentinel indicates that 22nd is at Xiaqi Dap amd the 42nd is at Xiangshan.

According to Jane's Sentinel the internal structure of the 22nd and 42nd flotillas is composed of two, four-boat squadrons with around two extra boats cycling through the yard or maintenance periods at any given time.

Most sources, except for the Directory of PRC Military Personalities, conclude that the ESF has a mine warfare flotilla.

There is some confusion surrounding the issue of amphibious or landing ship flotillas. Most sources conclude that ESF has only one amphibious flotilla, but Jane's Fighting Ships 2002-03 indicates that ESF has two.

Most sources decline to offer a specific figure regarding the total number of speed boat/patrol boat flotillas as there are several hundred vessels of various types available. The Directory of PRC Military Personalities does list two patrol boat flotillas.

CAPS also indicates that a 24th Patrol Craft Group was established between May 1991 and May 1992 at Changtu and that a 3rd Torpedo Craft Group at Shandu was deactivated at roughly the same time.

Due to its geographic location, this fleet would have a crucial role in a military operation designed to reunify Taiwan with the mainland. Forcible reunification may be fading as an option, as booming trade and investment from Taiwan draw the island closer to the mainland.

The unidentified speed boat flotilla (Unit 91792) based at Ningde (also referred to as a Mosquito Flotilla) is reported to have altered it training strategies and is de-emphasizing efforts to rapidly advance the operational tactics of the unit as this has resulted in poor results. Subordinate units began their training year in December 2002 and a review of those exercises in January 2003 indicated that the training strategy needed to be reviewed. Those units that illustrated poor performances were required to retrain. [People's Navy 8 Feb 2003 (PLA Activities Report February 2003)]

An unidentified Destroyer Flotilla began its 2003 training cycle in mid January of 2003. The flotilla sent a mixed formation of ten destroyers and frigates to the East China Sea for formation and subject training, which marked a departure from previous years in which ship and individual sailor training was emphasized at the beginning fo the annual training schedule. [People's Navy, 11 Feb 2003 (PLA Activities Report February 2003)]

Unit 91792, the unidentified speed boat/mosquito flotilla, is reported to have continued its training through the 2003 Spring Festival. The training exercises were reported to have included some twenty or more vessels, including submarine chasers, corvettes and guided missile patrol boats. This unit apparently has a tradition of conducted training exercises during the Spring Festival. These exercises indluded guided missile attacks, long-range raids and anti-aircraft operations. The exercises were also designed to improve interoperability between missile patrol boats, corvettes and sub chasers during operations against enemy destroyer/frigate groups. [People's Navy 11 and 13 Feb 2003 (PLA Activities Report February 2003)]


  • Chinese Defence Today "PLA Navy East Sea Fleet"
  • Bernard D. Cole. "The Organization of the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN)" The People's Liberation Army as Organization: Reference Volume v1.0, James C. Mulvenon and Andrew N. D. Yang eds. (Santa Monico: RAND; 2002)
  • Bernard D. Cole. The Great Wall at Sea: China's Navy Enters the Twenty-First Century (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press; 2001): p.83
  • Directory of PRC Military Personalities Serold Hawaii Inc, November 2002
  • Directory of PRC Military Personalities Serold Hawaii Inc, June 2000
  • Jane's Fighting Ships 2002-2003
  • Jane's Sentinel - China and Northeast Asia: January 2001 - May 2001; p. 109
  • Srikanth Kondapalli. "China's Naval Structure and Dynamics" Strategic Analysis (October 1999)
  • United States Navy. Office of Naval Intelligence. Worldwide Threat to U.S. Navy and Marine Forces; Volume II Country Study: China (December 1993) [ONI-2660S-007-93-VOL II]
  • "People's Liberation Army - Order of Battle" by Xinhui @ China Defense.com 6 Aug. 2002
  • Richard H. Yang ed. China's Military: The PLA in 1992/1993 (Taipai: Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies (CAPS); 1993)

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 02:39:16 ZULU