China Set To Launch Fourth Naval Fleet: Chinese Netizens

(CENTRAL NEWS AGENCY 24 APR 13) … Zep Hu and Lilian Wu

TAIPEI—Chinese netizens said recently that China will soon launch its fourth naval fleet, which will center around its aircraft carrier the Liaoning and will be responsible for deep sea combat missions in the South China Sea and the Diaoyutai Islands in the East China Sea.

The fleet, described as a strategic force similar to the secondary artillery corps, will fall under the jurisdiction of the powerful Central Military Commission, the online posts said.

China currently has three fleets — the North Sea Fleet based in Qingdao, Shandong, and responsible for the defense of the Yellow Sea; the East Sea Fleet headquartered in Ningbo, Zhejiang and deployed in the East China Sea; and the South Sea Fleet based in Zhanjiang, Guangdong, for patrol of the South China Sea.

The fourth fleet reportedly will be based in Sanya, Hainan, and will deploy two carrier battle groups, the Straits Times of Singapore had reported earlier.

The report said that China’s People’s Liberation Army’s carrier fleet will be composed of one or two Shang class nuclear attack submarines and one or two Sovremenny-class destroyers.

In addition, it may include one or two destroyers with anti-air missiles and at least one escort ship, the report said.

The destroyers could be Luzhou class type-051C or Luyang-II class type-052C, while the escort ship could be a Jiangkai II-class 054A, and supply ship a Fuchi class vessel, the paper said.

Initially, the maneuvers of the fourth fleet will be mainly in three major areas, the first being the waters of the South China Sea and Diaoyutai Islands, which China calls the Diaoyu Islands and claims as its territory, the report said.

The fleet will also operate in the western Pacific west of Guam.

The fleet will also operate from the Malacca Channel to the Indian Ocean, the Middle East and the eastern coast of Africa.

China has completed its supply points in the Indian Ocean in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Republic of Seychelles and Tanzania.

Hong Kong’s Ming Pao had reported earlier that the fourth fleet will be a new deployment by China. Antony Wong Dong, a veteran military analyst, said it will become a combat fleet after 2020.

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