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PLAN deploys ships into southern hemisphere to enhance operational training at extended range

A group of five Chinese naval vessels has deployed south of the equator for a training exercise that is likely intended to enhance the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s (PLAN’s) ability to conduct operations over an extended range and duration.

Images posted on 25 February via the PLAN’s Weibo social media account show that the group, referred to as the ‘175 Task Group’, comprises Type 052D (Luyang III)-class destroyer Yinchuan (pennant number 175), Type 054A (Jiangkai II)-class frigate Hengyang (568), Type 071 (Yuzhao)-class landing platform dock (LPD) vessel Wuzhisha (987), Type 815A (Dongdiao)-class signals intelligence (SIGINT) collection platform Tianshuxing (857), and Type 901 (Fuyu)-class fast combat support ship (AOR) Chagan Hu (967). All of the ships are subordinate to the Southern Theatre Command and are based either in Zhanjiang or at Yalong Bay on Hainan Island.

An analysis by Rod Lee, from the China Aerospace Studies Institute (CASI), published in the Jamestown Foundation’s China Brief in April 2020, concluded that an exercise conducted by ships of the South Sea Fleet/Southern Theatre Command in May 2016 was the first of a series of annual long-distance training deployments, called Exercise ‘Zhanlan’, intended to practise operations at an extended range and over a period of several weeks.

The previous exercise took place in January/February 2020 and also featured a Type 052D destroyer, a Type 054A frigate, the same Fuyu-class replenishment ship and Dongdiao-class SIGINT collector, with an ocean-going salvage tug joining the group for the latter stages of the exercise. The ships deployed into the Pacific Ocean, crossing the international dateline, and conducted logistics support activities, firefighting and damage control training, as well as an exercise in towing a disabled ship.

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