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Global Times

PLA Navy celebrates 73rd birthday with half dozen new warships, conspicuous hint on third aircraft carrier

Global Times

By Liu Xuanzun and Guo Yuandan Published: Apr 23, 2022 03:25 PM Updated: Apr 23, 2022 11:59 PM

The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy celebrated its 73rd anniversary on Saturday by announcing, over the past days, the commissioning of half a dozen powerful warships and two types of advanced vessel-based helicopters, which have already started training to form combat capabilities. These achievements are a reflection of the Navy's rapid, tremendous growth over the recent years, which is enabling the naval force to resolutely safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interests, top officers on some of the country's mightiest warships said in exclusive interviews with the Global Times.

An official video introducing China's aircraft carrier program released on Friday also gave a very obvious hint that the country's third aircraft carrier will be officially revealed soon.

Media reports revealed before the Navy's birthday that at least six new surface vessels were commissioned, namely a Type 075 amphibious assault ship, three Type 055 large destroyers and two Type 052D destroyers.

Having just recently entered service as China's second Type 075 amphibious assault ship, the Guangxi will soon join the Hainan, the first ship of this class that was commissioned exactly a year ago on April 23, in dual-ship formation training, reported the China Central Television (CCTV) on Saturday.

This has significant meaning to the fast development of the PLA's amphibious combat capabilities, as it shows that the PLA is rapidly achieving the capability of multi-domain, multidimensional landing, Senior Captain Wang Yanguang, political commissar at a naval vessel training center, said in the report.

While the first Type 075 amphibious assault ship Hainan entered service with the Southern Theater Command that faces the South China Sea, the second ship Guangxi entered service with the Eastern Theater Command, which is in charge of the East China Sea and the Taiwan Straits, according to a press release by the PLA Eastern Theater Command.

The Guangxi has already started basic training including navigation organization, combat rescue and damage control, as well as integration practices with helicopters, amphibious armored vehicles and air-cushioned landing craft, CCTV reported. Military analysts told the Global Times that the ship will gain combat capability very fast, as the first ship has already gathered valuable experience.

A total of three 10,000 ton-class Type 055 large destroyers were announced and are now in service with the Navy, namely the Anshan and the Wuxi with the Northern Theater Command and the Yan'an with the Southern Theater Command, taking the total number of Type 055 in service to six.

The Anshan and the Wuxi recently joined the Lhasa, the second ship in the Type 055 class, in a series of examination drills in the Yellow Sea, meaning that three new powerful large destroyers were gathered in the same region at the same time, reflecting how fast China has been building new warships, CCTV reported on Friday.

Having just entered service a month ago, the Wuxi aims to achieve operational capability within 2022, the report quoted Senior Captain Zhao Shuqian, the skipper of the ship, as saying.

The Navy also revealed the commissioning of two Type 052D destroyers, namely the Shaoxing and the Baotou. The Shaoxing recently joined a series of realistic combat drills organized by the Eastern Theater Command Navy, while the Baotou recently joined a five-day live-fire drill in the Yellow Sea, according to official media reports.

Senior Captain Zhou Minghui, skipper of the Nanchang, the first Type 055, told the Global Times in an exclusive interview shortly before the Navy anniversary that his ship is taking every opportunity to carry out a wide diversity of missions to test the ship's reliability and find problems, so future ships can be improved.

Over the past 10 years, warships of the Navy have seen great developments, and the concepts of how they are used have also changed, as new vessels are bound to sail to far seas and face more challenges, Zhou said.

Zhou used to be the executive officer on the Type 052 destroyer Qingdao and skipper of the Type 052D destroyer Xining, and is now the skipper of the Type 055 Nanchang. He said that China's fast speed of shipbuilding reflects its high level of industrial strength and the growing capability of national defense.

The Navy has also recently enlisted a number of auxiliary vessels like replenishment ships, rescue ships and new-type aircraft, the CCTV said.

Two shipborne variations of China's domestically developed Z-20 medium-lift helicopter were revealed for the first time in a CCTV report on Saturday.

It shows a vessel-based utility version of the Z-20 taking off from the helicopter deck of a Type 055 large destroyer, then a vessel-based anti-submarine version of the Z-20, also leaving a Type 055.

The Z-20 is more capable than the smaller Z-9, while more flexible than the larger Z-8. The utility version can be tasked with missions including transport, landing assault, reconnaissance and search and rescue, while the anti-submarine version can carry out missions like patrol as well as the search and attack of submarines, experts told the Global Times, noting that they will be found not only on the Type 055, but also the Type 075, the Type 052D and others.

The Navy is transforming itself from small boats to large ships, from coastal regions to far seas, from individual sailors to the whole system, from airfields to carriers, and from maritime only to all-terrain, making strides in the process, observers said.

Vessels and aircraft of the Navy patrol the South China Sea, East China Sea and the Taiwan Straits all day long, the Global Times learned. They often encounter provocations by foreign vessels and aircraft that sometimes even point fire-control radars at them, but the PLA forces always take resolute measures and do not let them do what they please. It has also become routine that vessels of the Navy break the island chains and conduct drills in far seas.

Since 2008, the Chinese Navy has dispatched 40 task forces with more than 100 vessels for escort missions in the Gulf of Aden and waters off Somalia, safeguarding more than 7,000 Chinese and foreign vessels, saving nearly a hundred from danger, the Navy said in a press release sent to the Global Times. This means the growing PLA Navy not only safeguards its motherland, but also makes important contribution to world peace, analysts said.

Looking forward

One day ahead of the founding anniversary, the Navy on Friday released a promotional video on China's aircraft carrier program, in which it gave a very obvious hint that the country's third aircraft carrier will be officially revealed soon.

Jointly produced by the PLA Navy Political Publicity Bureau and the PLA News Broadcasting Center, the promotional video is the first of its kind, as it introduces the progress of China's aircraft carrier program, including the development of the country's first carrier Liaoning, the second carrier Shandong and the carrier-based fighter jet J-15.

At the end of the video, a naval officer had a phone call with his mother, who urged him to have a "third child," and the officer replied, "That's the plan." As the phone call went on, the camera moved from a picture of the Liaoning to the Shandong, and stopped at a blank space of the wall.

This is a very clear implication that the country's third aircraft carrier is coming soon, observers said.

The new carrier, likely to feature new technologies including electromagnetic catapults, could be launched within 2022, experts said.

It will likely also get a new type of fighter jet from the state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China, a major contractor of PLA's aircraft, which sent birthday celebration to the Navy on Saturday on social media by posting a cartoon drawing depicting what seems like a FC-31 stealth fighter jet operating from an aircraft carrier dubbed "No. 3."

In terms of personnel, China's first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, has trained more than 1,000 backbone talent for the second carrier Shandong and more carriers to come, said Captain Wang Zesen, political commissar of the Liaoning, on the CCTV on Friday.

The Chinese Navy will have more pilots, more aircraft carriers and more carrier-based aircraft as well as more powerful measure and more reliable instruments in the future to resolutely safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interests, Senior Captain Xu Ying, executive officer of the aircraft carrier Shandong, told the Global Times in an exclusive interview shortly before the Navy's anniversary.

China's carrier development has passed the initial exploration phase, and has entered the phase of improvement and acceleration, said Xu, who is also one of the first Chinese carrier-based pilots.

"We need to sail to more unfamiliar waters, face more complicated weather and sea conditions in more complex missions, and have more accompanying forces," Xu said.

The PLA Navy will continue its development that aims at becoming a world-class navy, the Navy said in the press release sent to the Global Times.

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