The CNS Liaoning aircraft carrier and a new-generation nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine participate in the sea parade on Thursday. (ZHANG KAI/HU KAIBING/FOR CHINA DAILY)
Carrier group, newest nuclear subs, destroyers are pride of fleet
The naval hardware seen in Thursday's sea parade represented the achievements made by the People's Liberation Army Navy in its modernization drive, military observers said.
Senior Captain Cao Weidong, a researcher at the PLA Naval Military Studies Research Institute, said that the Navy received a large number of new weapons with advanced capabilities over the past five years and the new hardware features a higher information capability and optimized joint operation system and thus can better carry out sophisticated joint operations.
The parade's mixed grouping of ships, submarines and aircraft in different strike groups symbolized the Navy's enhanced capability of coordinating and integrating multiple elements in combat missions, he said.
The appearance of new-generation nuclear-powered submarines and a carrier battle group, Cao added, indicates that the Navy has become able to perform long-range operations.
Cui Yiliang, editor-in-chief of Modern Ships magazine, said the Navy showed almost all of its new hardware delivered during the past 10 years. It is now capable of conducting every naval operation, from strategic strike to amphibious assault, he said.
The technological advances of China's submarine forces was obvious in the parade, Cui said.
"The nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines involved in the parade are of the latest generation and have many improvements compared with their predecessors. You can see from their hull design that China has made big strides in nuclear-powered submarines," Cui said. "The new nuclear-powered attack submarines are reportedly capable of launching cruise missiles. Meanwhile, some conventionally powered attack submarines in the parade have been equipped with the advanced air-independent propulsion system that makes these boats stealthier."
Wu Peixin, a defense industry analyst in Beijing, said the PLA Navy has been steadily and rapidly catching up with the United States Navy in terms of its hardware's technological and operational capabilities.
"Ten years ago, it would have seemed a little unimaginable that we would have a full carrier battle group and could make it basically deployable in the decade to come. It would also appear fantastic if someone told you that we would soon begin commissioning a domestically built carrier and several of the world's mightiest destroyers," he said.
Wu gave the CNS Changsha, a Type 052D guided missile destroyer that carried President Xi Jinping during the parade, as an example of the Navy's improved arsenal.
The Type 052D class is the most capable fleet escort deployed by the Navy, he said. It has a full displacement of nearly 7,000 metric tons and a wide range of weapons, including a single-barrel 130-mm naval gun and a close-in weapon system, as well as 64 vertical launching cells containing HHQ-9 long-range anti-aircraft missiles and YJ-18 or YJ-83 anti-ship cruise missiles. The fighting power of a single Type 052D ship is the combat force equal of several previous models put together, Wu said.
The PLA Navy had its largest-ever sea parade on Thursday morning off Hainan province's southern coast to mark its achievements over the past several years.
The spectacular event, involving more than 10,000 Navy personnel, was the fifth sea parade by the Chinese Navy and the first in the South China Sea. The last sea parade was in 2009.
An armada of 48 ships and submarines, including the CNS Liaoning aircraft carrier, took part in the unprecedented demonstration of China's naval prowess. Six nuclear-powered submarines, including two that carry nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missiles, appeared in the parade.
Seventy-six naval aircraft flew overhead, including helicopters, fighter jets, bombers and electronic warfare aircraft.