China held its largest ever naval exercise on Oct. 17, amid territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas. More than 100 ships and submarines from its North and East Sea Fleets, 30 aircraft, ground troops, and other systems took part in the live fire exercise.
They also fired more missiles during the training than in any previous exercise, and fired “new air-to-air missiles, anti-ship missiles, and surface-to-air missiles,” according to IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly. Parts of the fleet departed afterward to join another Naval exercise, the “Jidong 5,” with its South Sea Fleet.
The exercise is the second “largest ever” this year for the Chinese military. In July it held joint naval drills with Russia, the “Joint Sea-2013” exercises, which were its largest ever with a foreign partner.
The July exercises were held in the Sea of Japan. After stating that the exercises “do not target any third parties,” Gen. Fang Fenghui, the People’s Liberation Army chief of the general staff, said it was for “safeguarding regional security and stability.”
According to the Navy Times, “China has long been a key customer for Russian military hardware, but only in the last decade have their militaries begun taking part in joint exercises.”
The Chinese military has recently held several trainings and operations at close intervals, and growing tensions in disputed waters are in the backdrop.
On Oct. 11, the Chinese military’s held its trans-MAC mobile campaign, codenamed “Mission Action 2013B.” This followed the “Mission Action 2013A” campaign by the Nanjing Military Area Command of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, and the “Mission Action 2013C” by the People’s Liberation Army Air Force.
The Mission Action 2013A training included more than 20,000 troops, its East China Sea Fleet and the South China Sea Fleet of the PLA Navy, part of its air force, airborne troops, and others.
Defense analysts said the nature of the exercise seemed to be for island combat. China Defense Blog noted, “judging from those PR photos, it is a joint service operations assault against a certain island east of the China mainland.”
According to the state-run China Military Online, the exercise included “air-raid and counter-air-raid, reconnaissance and counter-reconnaissance, and harassment and counter-harassment in such forms as network and electronic confrontation and actual-troop confrontation.”
The exercise also took place soon after two Chinese navy warships passed through the Strait of Magellan for the first time, on what would be the Chinese navy’s first visit to Argentina.