Chinese naval planes conduct anti-submarine drills in South China Sea

Teddy Ng

Chinese military aircraft recently conducted an anti-submarine drill over the South China Sea, the People’s Liberation Army said on Friday, amid a growing number of patrols and exercises by US warships in the region.

The drill, which involved two aircraft, was conducted earlier this month, not long before the US naval and marine units took part in expeditionary strike force training in the disputed waters, the PLA Navy said in a report.

While acknowledging the difficulties involved in such an operation, the report said the aircraft successfully identified several suspicious objects.

“Anti-submarine exercises are like trying to find a needle in a haystack. It’s difficult, the underwater hydrological conditions are complex,” Yu Yang, the captain of one of the aircraft, was quoted as saying.

But by having two planes working together, it “increase[d] the probability of finding a submarine”, he said.

The anti-submarine exercise involved two aircraft from the PLA Navy. Photo: Handout

Wang Shelin, one of the commanders of the exercise, said that anti-submarine operations were not only dangerous but a real test of the pilots’ skills.

Successfully completing the mission demanded precise “control of the speed and altitude of the aircraft”, he said.

The publication of the PLA report came after the United States staged a four-day exercise in the South China Sea last week involving the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group, the America Expeditionary Strike Group and the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.

At the end of last month, the US Navy accused the PLA of “unsafe and unprofessional” behaviour after a Chinese destroyer pointed a laser at an American maritime patrol aircraft flying over international waters west of Guam.

Collin Koh, a research fellow with the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, said the Chinese military was keen to promote its anti-submarine capabilities.

“This means we can expect to see more such exercises in the future, with no let up because of the coronavirus,” he said.

“You can also see this as a response not only to the [recent] carrier strike group operations, but the intensified US military presence in the South China Sea.

“And it would not be surprising if a nuclear attack submarine was in the vicinity of the carrier strike group,” he said.

Chinese and US defence chiefs discuss coronavirus crisis in phone call

Song Zhongping, a Hong Kong-based commentator on military affairs, said that with the possibility of a military conflict growing in the South China Sea, it was important for the PLA Navy to increase its anti-submarine training.

“The rivalry between the great powers is getting more and more intense, and the PLA must strengthen its preparations,” he said.

Echoing commander Wang’s comments, Song said that the high volume of maritime traffic and sheer size and depth of the South China Sea made searching for submarines difficult.

“So the PLA is trying to enhance its capabilities by constantly installing and testing new anti-submarine equipment,” he said.

Additional reporting by Minnie Chan

Purchase the China AI Report 2020 brought to you by SCMP Research and enjoy a 20% discount (original price US$400). This 60-page all new intelligence report gives you first-hand insights and analysis into the latest industry developments and intelligence about China AI. Get exclusive access to our webinars for continuous learning, and interact with China AI executives in live Q&A. Offer valid until 31 March 2020.

More from South China Morning Post:

This article Chinese naval planes conduct anti-submarine drills in South China Sea first appeared on South China Morning Post

For the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2020.