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UPDATED: May 4, 2009 NO. 18 MAY 7, 2009
Naval Ambitions
Despite humble beginnings, the Chinese Navy is set to safeguard national marine interests with advanced weaponry

Wu said the navy has completed more than 200 patrolling trips for defense purposes and installed automatic command systems, reconnaissance and warning systems and aerial and marine data in major waters.

High-seas naval drills have become regular for the service's five branches. During these drills, cruises for surface ships have extended from hundreds to thousands of sea miles; submarines hide underwater for several months compared with dozens of days in the past; aviation forces are trained to launch sudden attacks under complex meteorological conditions and Marine Corps and coastal defense wings participate in long-distance combat training.

Peaceful missions

According to Wu, the navy will incorporate the capacity for non-war military actions, especially emergency offshore search and rescue and antiterrorism activities.

Last year, nearly 3,000 Marine Corps soldiers were dispatched to join rescue work after the Wechuan Earthquake and naval forces participated in safeguarding security for the Beijing Olympics.

In December 2008, a three-ship flotilla comprised of the destroyers Wuhan and Haikou, and the supply ship Weishanhu, set sail to the Gulf of Aden for anti-piracy missions. The flotilla had safely escorted more than 200 ships through waters off the Somali coast by April this year. The navy deployed a second flotilla to the Gulf of Aden consisting of the destroyer Shenzhen and the frigate Huangshan on April 2.

"With the expansion of China's national interests and mounting nontraditional security threats we face, the navy undertakes a growing number of non-war military actions, which requires us to raise our capacities in this regard," said Wu.

More and more open

China's navy is stepping up foreign exchanges and cooperation to cope with non-traditional security threats, Wu told Xinhua.

Since the new century, the Chinese Navy has conducted 37 joint military drills with its foreign counterparts in areas including non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, security defense of sea-land-air channels, antiterrorism and joint search and rescue.

"To cope with the nontraditional security threats in the vast sea environment, exchanges and effective cooperation among the navies of different countries are a must," Wu said.

He said such joint military exercises were expanding in frequency and scale and covering a wider variety of fields.

The Chinese Navy held its first joint exercise in October 2003, when the Chinese and Pakistani naval forces conducted a search and rescue exercise off the coast of Shanghai in the East China Sea.

In 2004, Chinese and French naval forces held their first joint military exercise off the coast of Qingdao in east China.

In August 2005, the Chinese Navy participated in the country's joint military exercises with Russia, called Peace Mission 2005. In the same year, the Chinese Navy participated in military drills outside of Chinese waters for the first time by holding joint maritime search and rescue exercises with Pakistani, Indian and Thai navies against nontraditional security threats.

In October 2007, China, Australia and New Zealand staged a joint maritime search-and-rescue training exercise in the Tasman Sea.

In March 2009, the Chinese naval destroyer Guangzhou joined the 10-day multinational Peace 09 military exercises in the Arabian Sea off the southern Pakistani port of Karachi. During the operation, the Chinese Navy sent for the first time special forces to take part in a land antiterror drill, expanding its sea antiterror cooperation to new spheres, Wu said.

According to the commander, since 1985, the Chinese Navy has also sent more than 40 warships to 30 countries for friendship visits, and received more than 100 ships from 30 foreign countries.

Wu said Chinese naval delegations have visited Russia, the United States, Britain, France and Pakistan, among others, in recent years. They exchanged views on peace and development and tackling non-traditional security threats on the sea, and signed a number of bilateral and multilateral cooperation agreements.

Chinese Navy's Structure and Organization

In time of peace, the navy adopts a leadership system that combines operational command with building and administration, and which mainly consists of the navy headquarters, fleets, test bases, educational institutions and an armaments academy. The navy has three fleets, namely, the Beihai Fleet, Donghai Fleet and Nanhai Fleet, which are headquartered in Qingdao, Shandong Province, Ningbo, Zhejiang Province, and Zhanjiang, Guangdong Province, respectively. Each fleet has under its command fleet aviation, support bases, flotillas, maritime garrison commands, aviation divisions and marine brigades. At present, the navy has eight educational institutions, namely, the Naval Command College, Naval Engineering University, Naval Aeronautical Engineering College, Dalian Naval Academy, Naval Submarine College, Naval Arms Command College, Naval Flying College and Bengbu Naval School for Non-commissioned Officers.

The submarine force is equipped with nuclear-powered strategic missile submarines, nuclear-powered attack submarines and conventional submarines, all organized into submarine bases and submarine flotillas. The surface ship force mainly consists of destroyers, frigates, missile boats, mine sweepers, landing ships and service ships, and is organized into flotillas of destroyers, speedboats, landing ships and combat support ships, as well as maritime garrison commands. The aviation wing mainly consists of fighters, fighter-bombers, bombers, reconnaissance aircraft, patrol aircraft and helicopters, all organized into aviation divisions. The Marine Corps is organized into marine brigades, and mainly consists of marines, amphibious armored troops, artillery troops, engineers and amphibious reconnaissance troops. The coastal defense force is mainly organized into coastal missile regiments and antiaircraft artillery regiments, and mainly consists of shore-to-ship missile, antiaircraft artillery and coastal artillery troops.

(Source: China's National Defense in 2008)


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