Submarine crew submerge selves for greater good

By Zhao Lei (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-01-29 08:10
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BEIJING - Generations of commanders and crew members with the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy submarine fleet have devoted themselves to the development of China's sea-based nuclear deterrent, a Chinese newspaper said in a rare behind-the-scenes report on the low-profile force.

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As one of the most mysterious components of the PLA, the daily lives of commanders and crews on the country's submarines have barely been reported.

However, a recent feature in Beijing-based Science and Technology Daily shed a spotlight on the succession of crews that have worked underwater for more than 46 years on the submarine that once conducted the test launch marking China's sea-based nuclear deterrent.

The feature, titled Forging the Underwater Sword for the Republic, depicted "the tremendous sacrifice, the remarkable dedication and the huge contribution that commanders and crew members on the Changcheng 200 submarine have made to the motherland's national defense".

Submarine crew submerge selves for greater good
In this undated photo, crew members take part in an oath-taking ceremony on Changcheng 200. [Photo/China Daily] 

Changcheng 200, or Great Wall 200, reportedly entered service in September 1964 and later conducted test launches for sea-based missiles. The submarine belongs to the North Sea Fleet.

On Oct 12, 1982, the submarine conducted China's first underwater test launch for a carrier rocket, which was interpreted by many foreign military analysts as showing China's capability to launch a sea-based nuclear counterattack.

The submarine has set multiple records, including the longest service time and the highest number of missile launches in the history of the PLA Navy submarine fleet.

But the name Changcheng 200 never appeared in the media until Aug 4, 2010, when Chinese President Hu Jintao, also the Central Military Commission chairman, signed an order to award it the honorary title "Vanguard Submarine of Underwater Test Launches".

The submarine's honors include more than 60 citations and three second-class collective merits, said the Science and Technology Daily report, which also gave several touching examples of the servicemen.

In one instance, Wang Hao, a former electrician on the submarine, gave up several well-paid job offers in lucrative or easy businesses, and chose to follow the cause of his father, who was one of China's first submarine crew members.

Almost all the seamen on the submarine have written wills before setting out for dangerous missions, the report added.

In return for their contribution, nine commanders and crew members were awarded the title of second-class meritorious serviceman and 63 third-class merits were given to generations of these naval warriors.

Many low-level crew members have become specialists in their assigned professions, the report said, singling out weapon officer Zhang Haijun as a model soldier-turned-expert.

Zhang reportedly used all his off-duty time studying aerodynamics and missile technologies and his efforts finally reached fruition in a set of missile textbooks.