Japan Monitoring Combined Russian and Chinese Naval Fleet Sailing Off Honshu

October 22, 2021 12:21 PM
Chinese and Russian Warships. Japan Self-Defense Forces Photos

KUALA LUMPUR – A combined Russian Navy and China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) fleet continues to sail in international waters east of Japan’s main island of Honshu, while Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ships and aircraft monitor the fleet during its voyage.

As of 4 a.m. Thursday, the joint fleet was sighted between Smith Island (Sumisu-tō) and Tori-shima Island in the Izu Island chain, according to a news release and map released by the Joint Staff of the Japan Self-Defense Forces on Friday. Smith Island is around 440 kilometers, or about 273 miles, south of the main island of Honshu. The news release said the fleet was 50 kilometers, or about 31 miles, southwest of Smith Island.

Earlier, the fleet had transited the Tsugaru Strait on Monday evening, passing 40 kilometers, or about 25 miles, east to southeast of Shiriyazaki Lighthouse, the news release said. At 1:00 a.m. Wednesday, the fleet was 130 kilometers, or about 81 miles, east of the Inubōsaki Lighthouse.

A release from earlier this week identified the Chinese ships as Type 055 destroyer Nanchang (101), Type 052D destroyer Kuming (172), type 054a frigates Binzou (515) and Liuzhou (573) and an unnamed replenishment ship. Russian ships include destroyers Admiral Tributs (564) and Admiral Panteleyev (548), corvettes Gromkiy (335) and Hero of the Russian Federation Aldar Tsydenzhapov (339) and the missile range instrumentation ship Marshal Krylov (331).

The Joint Staff release said the JMSDF was monitoring the passage of the ships via P-3C Orions of Fleet Air Wing 2 stationed at Hachinohe Air Base, Honshu, while minesweeper JS Izushima (MSC-687) and destroyers JS Yamagiri (DD-152) and JS Takanami (DD-110) also monitored the fleet. It also said the Japan Air Self-Defense Force fighters had been scrambled in response to helicopters taking off from the Russian Navy and PLAN ships, with photos of the helicopters in question included in the release.

Previously, the PLAN ships had taken part in the Sea Interaction 2021 exercise between the two countries from Oct. 14 through 17. A Russian defense ministry release on Monday announcing the completion of the exercise said the PLAN contingent also included a rescue ship and a diesel submarine. Russian naval assets taking part in the exercise, as stated by the release, were Admiral Panteleyev, Gromkiy, Hero of the Russian Federation Aldar Tsydenzhapov, submarine Ust- Bolsheretsk (B-494), two base minesweepers, a missile boat and a rescue tug.

The JSDF Joint Staff Release from earlier this week noted it was the first time naval vessels from both countries had sailed jointly through the Tsugaru Strait and that the voyage of the vessels around Japan has prompted speculation as to whether the combined fleet’s sailing is a response to the various multinational sailings and exercises carried out by both Japan and the United States over the past few months throughout the Western Pacific. Japan also carried out four iterations of the Pacific Crown exercises with the United Kingdom Royal Navy Carrier Strike Group 21 (CSG 21) in the waters off Japan in August and September of this year.

In other developments, American destroyer USS The Sullivans (DDG-68) completed its participation in CSG 21 on Wednesday and is now headed home while the majority of the CSG is currently conducting port engagements in India.

Over in Guam, German Navy frigate Bayern (F217) is currently rotating out the two Sea Lynx helicopters operating onboard with another two, as it continues its deployment to the Indo-Pacific. A German Air Force A400M transport is also on its way to Guam and is transporting supplies and parts after making a quick overnight stop at Royal Malaysian Air Force Subang Air Base in Malaysia on Wednesday and Thursday.

Dzirhan Mahadzir

Dzirhan Mahadzir

Dzirhan Mahadzir is a freelance defense journalist and analyst based in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. Among the publications he has written for and currently writes for since 1998 includes Defence Review Asia, Jane’s Defence Weekly, Navy International, International Defence Review, Asian Defence Journal, Defence Helicopter, Asian Military Review and the Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter.

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