This is the first instalment of a week long series on the Chinese carrier Liaoning, its escorts and submarines.
Submarines belonging to China, the US, Japan and possibly South Korea and Taiwan may all have played roles in surveilling or counter-surveilling (and protecting) the Liaoning carrier group’s late December 2016 exercise in the Western Pacific. The submarines worked in cooperation with many other sensor platforms. [see the second instalment of this week's series Liaoning carrier group 2 (Wednesday)].
The HQ of each of the China's fleets are indicated, along with ship and submarine numbers in each fleet. (Map courtesy US DoD, Annual Report to Congress - Chinese Military Power 2016 (PDF about 10MB) on page 29)
China's test carrier Liaoning comes from China's North Sea Fleet. The carrier group escorts come from all three of China's Fleets (North, East and South Sea). The multi-fleet nature reinforces that the late December 2016 activity, beyond the Japan-Taiwan-Luzon portion of the First Island Chain, was very much an initial exercise rather than an operation.
For this activity the Liaoning carrier group:
regular Naval Base)
- passed through the Miyako Strait (between Okinawa and Miyako-jima (“jima” is Japanese for
“island”) on 25 December
The broken line - at least from Kyushu, Japn to Luzon, Philippines marks a portion of the First Island Chain and perhaps also a past or current undersea sensors array - perhaps used by China's opponents to hem in China's Navy (PLA-N). (Map from page 54, The Tools of Owatatsumi Japan’s Ocean Surveillance and Coastal Defence Capabilities (PDF about 10MB) (2015, ANU Press)).
- the group then sailed east of Taiwan – then returned to the First Island Chain line by turning west
through the Bashi Channel (Luzon Strait) to the north of the Philippines
- then continued west to port facilities at Sanya/Yulin Naval Base, at China's Hainan Island by 28th
Efficiently putting all the elements of carrier group operations together may take China years. This is particularly in the "enemy congested" waters of the East China and South China Seas. Within the First Island Chain there so many enemy missiles, bombs or torpedos are close at hand to threaten or sink Liaoning. Liaoning, in the medium to long term, might need to be based outside the First Island Chain to be reasonably secure.
On Wednesday, 4 January, the second instalment of this week's series - Liaoning carrier group.