Amid rising tensions in the Middle East and growing competition in the Indo-Pacific, all-weather allies China and Pakistan are conducting their largest-ever naval exercise in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) to “enhance interoperability” between their navies in dealing with “security threats”.
The exercise kicked off in the northern Arabian Sea a day after India and the United States discussed security threats posed by Beijing and pledged security cooperation in the face of aggression by the Russia-China axis. It follows Russia’s first maritime exercise with Myanmar in the Anadaman Sea.
China’s People’s Liberation Army (Navy) has sent a destroyer and two modern frigates, a conventional attack submarine and a submarine support ship for the third edition of Sea Guardian. Let’s have a look at the capacity of military assets deployed by China near Karachi near the western Indian coast.
Commissioned in 2020, Zibo is an upgraded version of the Type 052D general purpose destroyer. It is capable of striking at adversaries in the air, surface and under the water. Considered among the world’s biggest and most capable destroyers, Zibo is equipped with a single 130 mm gun, two 32-cell vertical launch systems (VLS) to fire cruise, anti-ship, and anti-submarine missiles, and five different types of radars.
Its radar can detect and track stealth aircraft and it can fire 24 short-range missiles in one go. This destroyer is considered the latest offering of the Type 052D series and is believed superior to many western destroyers. As per reports, the destroyer can intercept 96 out of 100 anti-ship missiles cruising up to a speed of Mach 4.
It is fitted with torpedo tubes and anti-submarine rocket launchers to hit enemy submarines. The extended hanger of Type 052DL destroyers can accommodate a helicopter, a Harbin Z-9 from China or a Russia-made Kamov Ka-28. The destroyer is manned by 280 crew members.
FRIGATES JINGZHOU & LINYI
Known of their versatility and cost-effectiveness, Jingzhou and Linyi are among China’s 30-odd most deployed class of medium-sized frontline ships, Type 054A. According to Chinese media, the Type 054As are fitted with advanced weapons and sensors and fire HQ-16 medium-range surface-air missiles from 32-cell vertical launch system (VLS).
The YJ-83 (C-803) supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles onboard this frigate can take down air targets in the range of 83-250 kms. Fired from two launchers fitted mid-ship, the missiles can carry a conventional warhead weighing up to 165kg.
It features a main single-barrel 76mm gun and two 30mm close-in weapon systems (CIWS) that can target hostile aerial targets up to a range of 3km. The two CIWS systems can fire 4,600 to 5,800 rounds per minute at threats in close proximity.
For anti-submarine operations, the frigate is equipped with two six-tube rocket launchers and two 324mm torpedo launchers. Its rockets, capable of carrying a 34kg non-nuclear warhead, can strike targets up to 1.2km beneath the water surface.
It can support a single medium-sized helicopter.
SUBMARINE SUPPORT VESSEL
The Chinese flotilla also comprises a Yangchenghu submarine support vessel with hull number of 847. It set sail from China’s Hainan naval base in mid-September. Touted as a “comprehensive rescue ship”, Yangchenghu is attached to the PLA’s Northern Theater Command.
Along with the vessels is China’s first indigenous diesel-electric powered Type 039 submarine, as per reports.
Speaking at the inauguration, Rear Admiral Liang Yang said the exercise will focus on dealing with contemporary traditional and non-traditional threats in the Indian Ocean Region and to enhance bilateral cooperation.
The nine-day drill will include several training programs like formation maneuvering, VBSS (visit, board, search and seizure), helicopter cross-deck landing, joint search and rescue, joint anti-submarine operations, main gun shooting, and professional exchanges.
“The Sea Guardian-3 joint exercise aims to enhance security cooperation between the two sides, consolidate and develop the China-Pakistan all-weather strategic cooperative partnership, and improve the level of actual combat training between the two militaries,” as per a Chinese Defence Ministry statement, translated into English from Mandarin.
As per the statement, 9 ships, including Shah Jahan and INS Saif, 3 carrier-based helicopters, 4 fighter jets, a fixed-wing anti-submarine patrol aircraft are taking part from the Pakistani side.