BEIJING, January 26 (ChinaMil) -- Adm. Wu Shengli and Adm. Miao Hua, respectively commander and political commissar of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy, observed the realistic confrontation exercises of the Marine Corps in the Gobi desert of Xinjiang on January 23.
This is the first time for the PLA Navy's top leaders to observe and instruct military exercises on the spot in 2016 according to public report, and the third time that Wu Shengli observed the cross-region exercises of the Marine Corps.
Zhang Junshe, associate researcher from the Military Academic Research Institute of the PLA Navy, said on January 25 that China's Marine Corps has large room for progress and will enhance its overall combat capability in the future.
It is reported that on January 22 and 23, the Marine Corps carried out live fire verification exercise, the confrontation exercise and the counter-terrorism drill involving special operations regiment in the Gobi desert for the first time. This is the fourth cross-region exercise of the Marine Corps since March 2014 and Wu Shengli has observed and instructed three of them, indicating the great importance he attaches to the Marine Corps.
"With a vast territory, China is faced with complicated surrounding situations, diversified threats and challenges, and volatile conditions. As we have expanded our national security interests and overseas interests, realistic war threats not only exist in the surrounding waters, but may also appear in more directions, remoter areas and vaster space", according to Zhang Junshe.
Therefore, Zhang stressed, "the Chinese Marine Corps has to be well trained in amphibious attack and carry out realistic trainings in high-elevation and cold areas, mountains, forests and Gobi desert, so as to adapt to different tasks and requirements under all kinds of circumstances."
The U.S. has the world's largest and strongest Marine Corps with nearly 200,000 troops, with three Marine Divisions as the ground combat force and close to 400 planes in the aviation force, including helicopters and F/A-18 and F-35 warplanes.
The U.S. has also deployed amphibious combat troops in all major theaters around the world, and has formed three ground expeditionary forces based on the three Marine Divisions, two deployed in the Pacific Ocean and one in the Atlantic Ocean.
Unlike the American Marine Corps that's focused on strike, Chinese Marine Corps' main mission is defensive combat. Although it is quite strong in the world, it still lags behind the American counterpart.
According to Zhang Junshe, "China's Marine Corps is much smaller than the U.S. counterpart in size. It lacks fixed-wing warplanes and the aviation force is too small. Moreover, China is weak in amphibious and long-distance power projection, and the PLA Navy lags far behind the American Navy that has about 30 large amphibious warfare ships."
Speaking of the Marine Corps development, Zhang Junshe believed the priority is to enhance its capability of amphibious landing operations and full-spectrum combat. Second, it should hone the ocean-going operation capability, with Chinese Marine Corps' participation in the Gulf of Aden escort missions and overseas Chinese evacuation operations being excellent practices.
In terms of equipment, the main battle equipment of the Marine Corps has to be further improved, including upgrading the tank performance and reinforcing aviation strike and transportation forces.
Moreover, large amphibious warfare ships with greater cruising ability, larger tonnage and higher speed shall be developed that can deliver Marines for combat operations quickly and improve their capability in amphibious landing operations, full-spectrum combat, and implementing diversified tasks.
The author is Guo Yuandan, reporter from the Global times. The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and don't represent views of the China Military Online website.