High-octane naval drill held

Updated: 2013-07-10 08:13

By Pu Zhendong and Zhao Shengnan in Vladivostok, Russia (China Daily)

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The largest China-Russia naval drill shifted into high gear on Tuesday with task forces from both countries practicing a flurry of drills amid a thick mist in Peter the Great Gulf off the Russian coast.

From 9 am local time, the combined flotilla accomplished exercises in joint air defense, maritime supply protection and rescue procedures for hijacked vessels in waters near Vladivostok.

Visibility was less than 100 meters in the area due to mist and rain.

Yang Junfei, commander of the Chinese task force, said the drills, named Joint Sea 2013, tested the soldiers' skills and tactical abilities under various scenarios. "The exercises highlighted the cooperation of the two navies in dealing with nontraditional security threats," he said.

In one specific exercise to practice rescue procedures of a hijacked vessel, helicopters were used as reconnaissance before two boats each with 10 members from special military forces of China and Russia were sent to a Russian supply ship posing as an abducted merchant ship. Members of the special task forces climbed aboard almost simultaneously.

The two teams then brought simulated pirates under control after shooting six pirates dead in seconds.

On Wednesday, the drill will include joint search and rescue efforts, the use of weapons and a maritime parade before the vessels sail back to the port of Vladivostok in the late afternoon.

The two sides had organized defense measures of a port after anchoring into designated exercise areas on Monday afternoon. Chinese naval troops also practiced the use of diver detection sonar and establishment of watch posts, Yang said.

Xu Fang, captain of the Shijiazhuang, said the exercises offer a rare opportunity to learn from Russia, a strong maritime country.

Experts said that joint military drills between the two countries will enhance the capabilities of both Chinese and Russian navies to respond to maritime challenges against changing regional security situations.

Luo Yuan, deputy secretary-general of the China Military Science Society of the People's Liberation Army, said the annual military drills highlight the importance of the bilateral relationship, which has been elevated to a comprehensive strategic partnership.

"China and Russia share common security concerns," Luo said. "But the exercises are not targeting a third country."

China sent four missile destroyers, two missile frigates, one supply vessel and three helicopters to Vladivostok to participate in the drill.

Contact the writers at puzhendong@chinadaily.com.cn and zhaoshengnan@chinadaily.com.cn

(China Daily 07/10/2013 page12)