China’s recent navy combat drills in the South China Sea may help the country build more aircraft carrier battle groups in the future, experts said, who added that the “unprecedentedly large-scale naval exercises” were quite rare even by international standards.
According to images provided by the Earth imaging company Planet Labs Inc., at least 40 ships and submarines were flanking China’s only aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, on March 26 in the South China Sea, just south of the Chinese island province of Hainan.
“If the images are authentic, then China’s naval exercises held this time are extremely rare even by world standards, as the British Navy only sent around 40 vessels to join the Falklands War in 1982,” an expert who asked for anonymity told Global Times on Wednesday.
According to the expert, China’s aircraft carrier formation is constituted by the country’s third or fourth generation combat vessels, which are the most advanced of their kind and possess extraordinary combat capabilities. He further noted that the drills may be used to test China’s aircraft carrier formation, gathering data and experience for the country’s future construction of carrier combat groups.
China’s unusual actions in the South China Sea have interested foreign media and experts.
“Foreign media should not make a fuss about the drills, which are common practice for the Chinese navy. There is no doubt that the Chinese navy will conduct even larger-scale drills in the future,” a source close to the PLA navy told Global Times.
The Chinese military has been strengthening real combat drills and joint operations since President Xi Jinping, who is also Chairman of the Central Military Commission, took office. As a result, all of the Navy's combat vessels now spend about eight months each year on the sea, carrying out patrols, drills and training operations, much longer than before, according to China’s Ministry of National Defense.
“The international community’s response to China’s recent drills show that they are yet to get used to China’s military rise. It’s possible that the most powerful military forces in the future will be China and the U.S., though China would not promote hegemony worldwide like the U.S.,” the source further noted.