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PLA Navy makes great strides as it turns 72

By ZHAO LEI | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2021-04-23 07:18
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The CNS Liaoning aircraft carrier leads a fleet during a People's Liberation Army Navy training mission in the South China Sea in 2016. [Photo by Mo Xiaoliang/For China Daily]

The People's Liberation Army Navy, which will celebrate its 72nd birthday on Friday, has made tremendous strides over the past several years in transforming itself into a world-class force under the guidance and instructions from President Xi Jinping.

Long-range operations and live-fire exercises have become regular parts of the Navy's annual training schedule, which is focused on combat readiness and capabilities, while combat exercises and joint operations drills have been given top priority on the Navy's agenda.

Naval units are continuously extending their operational ranges, improving strategic deterrence and counter-strike capabilities, fostering skills in mobile and joint combat operations, and enhancing integrated logistics support capacity.

The carrier battle groups have gained initial fighting capability, meaning they are always ready for action. Also, the transformation of the naval aviation force has been proceeding well, amphibious assault units have been substantially strengthened and the overseas base in Djibouti is gradually establishing operational support capacity, according to the Navy's top commanders.

The changes the Navy has made and the accomplishments it has obtained over the past several years were historic and remarkable, and the Navy is much stronger than before, commanders said.

They said that behind these achievements were the guidance and instructions from Xi, who is also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission.

Xi has repeatedly stressed that a strong nation must be one that cares about the oceans and that a modern, powerful navy is an important sign of a top-tier military.

He has made several inspection tours to naval units, giving explicit directives concerning a series of the Navy's significant policies, major military operations, key projects, vital tasks as well as outstanding obstacles.

Modernization drive

The PLA Navy was founded on April 23, 1949, in the township of Baimamiao, Jiangsu province. In 1989, the date was designated as the Navy's founding day.

The service had long been constrained within China's coastal waters, mainly by the lack of modern hardware. But in recent years, the country's economic prosperity has allowed the government to substantially raise its investment in its military.

The Navy now has two aircraft carriers, dozens of large amphibious assault ships, landing craft and destroyers, as well as new submarines.

Lieutenant Commander Jiao Yunqiang, chief of combat operations on one of the Navy's best submarines, said that thanks to Xi's emphasis on combat training and the Navy's modernization endeavors, his submarine now spends a much longer time in deep ocean areas for patrols and training and has been equipped with many new weapons in recent years.

"For example, in the past we only had torpedoes, but now we have commissioned cutting-edge cruise missiles that enable us to launch long-range strikes and also improve our safety," Jiao said. "I can proudly say that I have fired all of the Navy's submarine-based weapons."

Having new weapons does not necessarily translate into stronger capability, Jiao said, adding that all crew members understand that stringent training and drills are the ultimate key to invincibility.

"New personnel on the submarine, no matter whether they are officers or sailors, are required to learn and personally check layouts and detailed arrangements of their equipment so they are very familiar with the devices," he said. "We also use sophisticated ground-based simulation instruments to train our crew members."

In combat exercises organized by the Navy, Jiao's submarine challenges warships and aircraft, and their confrontations were intense."Such war games are very similar to real combat. All of the involved units try their best to defeat others, which consequently will improve our crew members' skills and experience," Jiao added.

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