People’s Liberation Army Navy ships transited through Japanese straits this week, while Russian bombers and fighters flew near Japan’s territorial airspace, according to the Japanese Ministry of Defense.
On Monday at 8 p.m., a PLAN Dongdiao-class surveillance ship with the hull number 796 was sighted sailing southeast in an area 140 kilometers west of Kuchinoerabu Island, which lies 130 kilometers south of Kyushu, according to Wednesday news release issued by the Joint Staff Office of Japan’s Ministry of Defense. Dongdiao 796 then sailed southwest on the western side of the Nansei Islands. On Tuesday the surveillance ship sailed southeast through the Miyako Strait into the Pacific Ocean. Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force fast attack craft JS Otaka (PG-826) and replenishment ship JS Mashu (AOE-425), along a with a JMSDF P-1 Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) of Fleet Air Wing 1 stationed at JMSDF Kanoya A JS Mashu (AOE-425)ir Base, Kyushu and a JMSDF P-3C Orion MPA of Fleet Air Wing 5 stationed at Naha Air Base, Okinawa, monitored the PLAN ship.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday at 10 p.m., a PLAN Renhai-class destroyer, a Luyang III-class destroyer and a Fuchi-class replenishment ship were sighted sailing southeast in an area 90 kilometers west of the Danjo Islands in the East China Sea, according to a second news release issued Wednesday. Images and hull numbers provided identified the ships as destroyers CNS Lhasa (102) and CNS Kaifeng (124) and replenishment ship CNS Taihu (889). The U.S Navy and NATO classify the Renhai class as cruisers rather than a destroyer, owing to its multi-mission and flag command capabilities. The PLAN surface action group sailed through the Osumi Strait into the Pacific Ocean on Wednesday, the release said. Multipurpose support ship JS Amakusa (AMS-4303), along with JMSDF P-1 MPAs of Fleet Air Wing 1 based at JMSDF Kanoya and Fleet Air Wing 4 based at Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Honshu, shadowed the PLAN surface group during its voyage.
On Thursday at 5 a.m., a PLAN Sovremenny-class destroyer was sighted sailing southeast in an area 140 kilometers northwest of Miyako Island, according to a JSO news release issued that day. Hull number and image provided identifies the destroyer as CNS Taizhou (138). The PLAN destroyer then sailed southeast through the Miyako Strait, with Mashu and a JMSDF P-3C Orion of Fleet Air Wing 5 monitoring.
On Wednesday morning, two Russian Tu-95 bombers and two Russian fighters flew south over the Sea of Japan towards Japanese airspace before reversing course off the Noto Peninsular, Honshu and heading north towards Russia, the JSO said in a second release issued on Thursday. The Japan Air Self-Defense Force scrambled in response. The Russian Defense Ministry on Wednesday issued a release saying the two Tu-95SM bombers conducted a 7-hour flight over the Sea of Japan in neutral waters and that Russian Air Force Su-30SM and Su-35S fighters provided an escort for the bombers. The flights were performed in strict compliance with the international rules of using the airspace, the Russian Defense Ministry said.
Meanwhile, the JASDF formally stood up its reconnaissance squadron at Misawa Air Base. The squadron will operate the RQ-4B Global Hawk surveillance drone. Japan ordered 3 RQ-4Bs, with one delivering on March 12, 2022.
U.S. amphibious forces are also operating in the region. On Monday, amphibious transport dock USS Anchorage (LPD-23) arrived in Surabaya, Indonesia, for a scheduled port visit before participating in the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT)/Marine Exercise (MAREX) Indonesia 2022 with the Indonesian Navy and Marine Corps, according to a U.S. Navy news release issued the same day. Anchorage is part of the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group, along with amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD-8) and USS John P. Murtha (LPD-26), with the embarked 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit. John P. Murtha left Guam on Saturday following a port visit there, the Navy said in another release.
In New Zealand on Tuesday, the first of four P-8A Poseidon aircraft ordered by New Zealand arrived home at Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) Base Ohakea, North Island. The P-8A will replace the P-3K2 Orions and the New Zealand Defense Force will operate them.
“[T]he aircraft’s capabilities will support multiple government agencies, including New Zealand Customs Service, the Ministry of Primary Industries, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade,” a New Zealand Ministry of Defense release reads.
The other three aircraft will deliver by mid 2023 as New Zealand pursues a NZ $250 million infrastructure initiative to operate and maintain the P-8As. Those infrastructure efforts feature “two hangars, maintenance support and warehousing for spares, 5 Squadron administration, operations centre and a state of the art training wing,” according to the release.
Due to problems with the supply chain, the infrastructure work will wrap up next year, “with specialist fitout” completing in 2024, according to the Ministry of Defense.