July 26, 2017

Chinese-Russian Joint Sea 2017 Naval Exercise Worries Balts

China and Russia have been cementing their unholy naval alliance with regular exercises. The live fire “Joint Sea 2017” July 22 to July 28, is the latest. It is being held far from China, in the Baltic Sea near European Russia. See good Youtube about how Baltic nations are worried.

The regular Joint Sea exercises have been held since 2012 and mark the eclipse of Russia as a top five conventional naval power but China’s rise as the number two conventional naval power (neck and neck with Japan). Russia’s possession of the second largest fleet of nuclear submarines complicates relative strength measurements a bit.

Throughout the Joint Sea Exercises Russia has only been able to deploy very small or very old vessels (of uncertain engine reliability). Large tugboats therefore feature large in Russian flotillas.

China’s Xinhuanet News Agency reports the 2017 exercise includes: “drills on a map”; live firing of “secondary cannons” (30mm on Chinese vessels); air defence;  “joint landing and inspection”; search and rescue; and underway replenishment, etc.

For 2017 the Russian Navy can only muster two corvettes (Steregushchy and the Boiky) and an essential tugboat (SB-123). Russia is providing lots of land based airpower though.

The Chinese flotilla consists of:

Type 052D destroyer Hefei 合肥 (DDG-174). It is the third 052D  built, commissioned December 2015, in China’s South Sea Fleet. Its AESA radar and 64 cell VLS may make it almost as effective as a US Arleigh Burke-class destroyer.
Type 054A multi-role frigate Yuncheng 运城, No. 546 (sister ship above). At 4,000 tons (with a 32 cell VLS, 8 Harpoon like ASM, ASW torpedos and ASROC launchers) it is of the size and armament that the US Navy can return to - after the abortive US LCS program. 

And Type 903 replenishment ship Lomahu. 骆马湖No. 964, commissioned July 2016 based at South Sea Fleet (sister ship above). At 23,000 tons it is a useful size for a flotilla. (photo courtesy Coatepeque at Chinese Defense Blog).


-  Joint Sea 2012 was held in the Yellow Sea, April 22-27, 2012. A total of 25 warships and
   submarines, 13 warplanes, nine helicopters and two commando units participated

Read more: https://sputniknews.com/voiceofrussia/news/2014_05_26/Russian-Chinese-military-exercises-Joint-Sea-2014-end-in-China-9370/

-  Joint Sea 2013 was held in the Sea of Japan, July 5-12, 2013. 18 ships of the 2 countries took part   

-  Joint Sea 2014 was held in May 2014 in the East China Sea.

-  Joint Sea 2015, held May 2015, in the Mediterranean Sea, included two Type 054A frigates
   (Linyi and Weifang) and Type 903 replenishment ship Weishanhu subscription source, and

-  Joint Sea 2016, was held September 2016, in the South China Sea. Three Russian warships and two
   supply ships exercised with ten Chinese Navy ships (destroyers, frigates, landing ships, supply
   ships and submarines) took part.

So the exercises are very regular. It is is not yet clear whether pro-Russian Trump will bother to  Tweet-Churchillian* about this symptom of Chinese-Russian naval alliance.

* Never in the course of New York history have so many plebs payed out so much to so many Trophy** trading Billionaires.

** the latest super model trade-in Trophy is crucial to America's Putin-Trump-Putin era.



Josh said...


Has anyone documented the path that the PLAN took to get to the Baltic? There are exactly four ways: across the IO and through the Med, across the IO and around Africa, through the Northwest passage, and going all the way around Kamchatka to the Kola. The first means that they went through a NATO lake and likely actually bought fuel from an EU country, the next means they took a rather long winded route around another continent and arranged for fuel in Africa which would be significant, the next assumes that Canada didn't say anything about their passage and that they had a rather long and cold trip, and the final route would assume almost the entire trip was above the arctic circle and no where near a port that could even provide fuel (unlikely). It seems option 1 is the only likely one, or perhaps option 2. In which case while the PLAN is definitely stretching its wings, it's doing so at the leisure of about a half dozen different NATO navies and air forces that aren't actively trying to block it (and there's no reason they should, so long as PLAN is in international waters). So while the deployment is significant, the path and port visits to that deployment would give context and better sense of their capability, if anyone is aware of it.


MHalblaub said...

RT news run by the Russia. They like to tell that the NATO members fear Russia.
Here is another news by German "DER SPIEGEL":
Rather boring and just mentioning 3 ships. No fear at all.
For sure the Chinese ships will get tight escort to gather information not available in the area again soon.

China will look closely how weak his neighbor is but Putin needs a show of force for Russia itself.


Peter Coates said...

Hi Josh

The Chinese flotilla in the Baltic passed through the Mediterranean. Meaning its highly likely it arrived From Suez Canal <- Red Sea <- Indian Ocean <- Malacca Strait <- South China Sea/Southern China (the ships are of China's South Sea Fleet).

Source is http://edition.cnn.com/2017/07/20/asia/china-navy-expansion-baltic-russia-drills/index.html of 20-21 July 2017 with the most compelling sentence:

"The Chinese ships come to the Baltic at the end of a 10,000-mile journey. That included steaming through the Mediterranean, where they conducted live-fire training last week, according to China's Ministry of Defense."



Peter Coates said...

Hi MHalblaub

The Baltic democracies indeed should not be automatically worried about the Chinese flotilla as Russian and Belorussian land based airpower and armies are already more powerful than such ships.

I'd say the main seas to worry about combined Chinese and Russian navies are at the outher end of Eurasia: ie. Russia's Far East Vladivostok-Kamchatka and all China's mainland, Hainan and new South China Sea island bases. The US Navy is no longer dominant over this Chinese-Russian combination in the "Far East".

Yes Putin should be increasingly worried about China's conventional (therefore more) usable naval dominance over Russian conventional naval forces.



Josh said...


In my opinion the USN is still dominant, though we're seeing that slip away. The only thing the Russian Pacific Fleet has is a large number of submarines with a questionable number of that list of boats actually serviceable.