A gun turret is seen on the deck of the Russian guided-missile cruiser Varyag in Hong Kong on June 5, 2017. The vessel is the flagship of a Russian flotilla participating in war games that kicked off with Chinese forces in the East China Sea on Dec. 21, 2022. Photo by Anthony Wallace/ AFP via Getty Images.
A combined Russian and Chinese armada has entered the East China Sea near Japan, the Kremlin announced.
Quoting Russian defense officials, the state-run news agency Tass revealed that Rear Adm. Valery Kazakov is commanding the Primorye Flotilla, with the guided-missile cruiser Varyag as his flagship, during what’s called the Joint Sea 2022 naval maneuvers.
The People’s Liberation Army Navy task force is led by Rear Adm. Wang Yu, who is commanding from his flagship, the guided-missile destroyer Jinan. The group includes sister destroyer Baotou, the guided-missile frigates Binzhou and Yangchen, an unnamed diesel submarine, and what Tass called “a comprehensive supply ship.”
That’s most likely the Type 903 Fuchi-class supply ship Gaoyouhu. Satellite tracking provided to Coffee or Die Magazine showed a formation of vessels operating in the East China Sea, in international waters roughly 170 nautical miles east of Kagoshima.
Russia’s Slava-class Varyag will be escorted by the guided-missile frigate Marshal Shaposhnikov and a pair of Project 20380 Steregushchiy-class corvettes, Hero of the Russian Federation Aldar Tsydenzhapov and Sovershenny.
On Dec. 21, 2022, People’s Liberation Army Navy Rear Adm. Wang Yu took the mic to announce the start of joint Chinese-Russian maritime maneuvers in the East China Sea while on board his flagship, the guided-missile Jinan, pictured below escorting the aircraft carrier Liaoning in the Lamma Channel into Hong Kong on July 7, 2017. Warship photo by Anthony Wallace/ AFP via Getty Images.
The first round of war games involved surface maneuvering, communications, and Russian Ka-27 anti-submarine warfare helicopters sweeping the East China Sea, the Kremlin said.
They’re slated to wrap up the drills on Dec. 27, but not before the two forces conduct joint missile and anti-aircraft practice on aerial drones, anti-submarine operations, and artillery salvos on sea targets, according to Tass.
Beijing defense officials also have played up the drills, adding that their warships will be joined by fixed-wing early warning aircraft, shore-based anti-submarine patrol planes, and helicopters launched from the vessels at sea.
The drills mark the 10th anniversary of joint Chinese-Russian maritime exercises, and Chinese military leaders say the armada also plans on practicing naval blockades and rescue and boarding operations.
"All the courses involve operations that the Chinese navy might use in the future while coping with maritime challenges and safeguarding regional peace and stability," said Zhang Huiwu, a Chinese naval commander.
The Shijiazhuang, a type 051C guided-missile destroyer from China's People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), arrives in the Russian port city of Vladivostok located near the North Korean border on Sept. 18, 2017. China and Russia began a joint military exercise that day in waters near the Korean peninsula. STR/AFP via Getty Images.
Since the Coalition 2003 anti-terrorism exercises 19 years ago, the two nations have now conducted at least 80 joint military maneuvers or patrols, 17 of them at sea, according to data compiled by the ChinaPower team at the bipartisan nonprofit Center for Strategic and International Studies.
The Kremlin’s announcement of the latest maritime maneuvers came shortly before a Thursday flurry of announcements from Russia’s top leaders about the state of its military, which has been bogged down in a ground war inside Ukraine for 10 months.
They also arrived a day after Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, addressed a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill, with lawmakers vowing to send another $44.9 billion in military aid to Kyiv’s forces.
Russia's guided-missile destroyer Marshal Shaposhnikov, which focuses on anti-submarine patrols, fires a gun during the Vostok 2022 military exercises at the Peter the Great Gulf of the Sea of Japan, Sept. 5, 2022. The drills combined the forces of several countries friendly to the Kremlin, including China. Photo by Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty Images.
Russian President Vladimir Putin told reporters the guided-missile frigate Admiral Gorshkov will exit the repair yard and return to naval service in early January, and “new weapon systems are already being tested there.”
"Although these weapon systems are of intermediate range, they have such speed specifications that they provide us with certain advantages in this sense," Putin added.
The president previously disclosed that the warship would be armed with Tsirkon hypersonic missiles, which he said can travel nine times the speed of sound and strike targets roughly 540 nautical miles away.
Russian President Vladimir Putin visits the national defense control center to oversee the test launch of the Avangard hypersonic missile, Moscow, December 26, 2018. - Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu told President Vladimir Putin on December 27, 2019 that the country's first Avangard hypersonic missiles have been put into service, an official statement said. Photo by Mikhail Klimentyev/ SPUTNIK / AFP via Getty Images.
And in his Thursday briefing for foreign military attachés in Moscow, Chief of the Russian General Staff Valery Gerasimov announced that upcoming joint drills with Belarusian forces will be expanded to include unnamed “partner countries.”
"The West 2023 maneuvers and the Union Shield 2023 joint Russian-Belarusian drills will be the main training events that the [Russian] Armed Forces will hold next year,” he said. “There are plans to invite troops from partner countries to take part in the drills as part of a group of coalition forces.”
It remains unclear if any nation will accept the Kremlin's invitation.
Carl Prine is a former senior editor at Coffee or Die Magazine. He has worked at Navy Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.
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South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that the launch occurred Wednesday but gave no further details, such as how far the missile flew.