China and Russia conduct Baltic exercise
The Chinese vessels are led by a guided missile destroyer (pictured as an artist’s impression), one of its most advanced warships.
The Type 052D destroyer Hefei, which was commissioned less than two years ago and “equipped with phased array radar and a vertical launching system”, Beijing announced. It is deployed with a missile frigate and a supply ship.
The flotilla was accompanied by about 10 Russian vessels and 10 aircraft and helicopters.
UK and Dutch ships shadowed the Chinese during their journey to the Baltic.
Kaliningrad, the heavily militarised Russian enclave on the Baltic, which was called East Prussia until it fell to the Red Army in 1944, will act as the headquarters for the exercise.
The Chinese deployment is proof of how quickly its navy has developed, fresh from completing exercises in the Mediterranean.
China has just opened its first military base outside the Asia-Pacific region in Djibouti in northeast Africa: a strategic outpost for its naval ships in the Indian Ocean.
A second aircraft carrier is being built which is the first made domestically, not a secondhand Russian vessel.
Beijing’s first Type 055 destroyer was launched in June, which will reportedly be as advanced as any in the world. Like the Royal Navy’s Type 45s, they will provide air defence for Chinese aircraft carriers.
Professor Ni Lexiong, a Shanghai-based military observer, told the Telegraph newspaper that the Baltic exercises were meant to send a signal to Nato, carried out in response to drills that were staged by the US, India and Japan in the Indian Ocean, which were interpreted as a message to Beijing.
“China and Russia have pledged to enhance their strategic relationship by regularly staging military drills,” said Ni, director of the Shanghai University’s Sea Power and Defence Policy Research Institute.
“China also has its own plans, which is to show the world that it is a major naval power.”
Russia and China held joint drills every year since 2012, with Beijing saying this year’s manoeuvres would focus on “joint rescue efforts and protecting cargo vessels”.
Artist’s impression of a Chinese Type 055 destroyer. Picture credit: Wikimedia