Chinese ships hone their combat skills in Mediterranean before exercise with Russia
A Chinese naval flotilla carried out a live-fire exercise in the Mediterranean Sea on Monday en route to the Baltic Sea for a joint drill with the Russian Navy, the People's Liberation Army Navy said on Tuesday.
The flotilla, comprising the CNS Hefei, CNS Yuncheng and CNS Luomahu, fired several rounds at sea targets. Sailors also used small arms to hit nearby targets during the exercise, according to a news release from the PLA Navy.
The operation was aimed at honing crew members' skills in attacking small targets, the news release quoted Zhao Yanquan, captain of the Hefei, as saying.
The Hefei is a Type 052D guided-missile destroyer, the Yuncheng is a Type 054A guided-missile frigate and the Luomahu is a Type 903A replenishment ship. All of them belong to the South Sea Fleet and are said to be the best class of their category.
After the exercise, the flotilla continued to sail toward its destination in Baltic Sea to take part in the "Joint Sea 2017" drill with the Russians in waters off St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad.
The Chinese ships set off for the drill from their home port in Sanya, Hainan province, on June 18.
The drill is expected to improve coordination between the two navies on joint defense operations at sea, the PLA Navy said, adding that it includes two stages - the first in the Baltic Sea in late July and the second in the seas of Japan and Okhotsk in mid-September.
In addition to the flotilla led by the Hefei, another Chinese naval flotilla - the CNS Changchun, a Type 052C guided-missile destroyer; CNS Jinzhou, a Type 054A frigate; and the CNS Chaohu, a Type 903A replenishment ship - is also in the Mediterranean Sea, making visits to various nations.
The flotilla left Shanghai on April 23, the date marking the 68th anniversary of the founding of the PLA Navy, and is in the middle of a goodwill voyage to more than 20 countries in Asia, Europe, Africa and Oceania.
The ships entered the Mediterranean on Thursday through the Suez Canal following a four-day call in Djibouti that ended on July 1. They will visit Italy next.