Russian, Chinese Warships Hold Drill in East China Sea, Chinese Carrier Strike Group Steams in Philippine Sea

December 23, 2022 3:37 PM - Updated: December 25, 2022 10:30 PM

The Russian Navy and the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) are exercising in the East China Sea while the PLAN Liaoning Carrier Strike Group continues operating in the Philippine Sea.

On Wednesday, the Joint Staff Office of Japan’s Ministry of Defense said on a Russian Navy cruiser, destroyer and two corvettes were sighted Tuesday, sailing southwest in an area 50 miles northeast of Tsushima. The group included cruiser RFS Varyag (011), destroyer RFS Marshal Shaposhnikov (543) and corvettes RFS Sovershennyy (333) and RFS Hero of the Russian Federation Aldar Tsydenzhapov (339), all part of the Russian Navy’s Pacific Fleet. The release added that the four ships sailed southwest through the Tsushima Strait into the East China Sea from Tuesday to Wednesday. The Russian ships were monitored by the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) fast attack craft JS Shirataka (PG-829) and JMSDF P-1s maritime patrol aircraft of Fleet Air Wing 4 based at Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Honshu.

The four Russian Navy ships were traveling to rendezvous with PLAN ships for the Russia-China Joint Sea 2022, a series of joint exercises in the East China Sea that has been carried out by the two countries since 2012. This year’s iteration is taking place from Dec. 21 to 27.

Four Russian warships operating near Japan. JSDF Photo

Russian replenishment ship Pechanga is also taking part in the exercise, according to a release by China’s Ministry of National Defense. The PLAN is deploying the destroyers CNS Baotou (133) and CNS Jinan (152), frigates CNS Binzhou (515) and Yancheng (546), replenishment ship CNS Gaoyouhu (966) and a submarine along with airborne early warning and control aircraft and maritime patrol aircraft. The drills will encompass a wide range of maritime warfare activities along with live firing. Last year in October, both navies conducted joint drills along with jointly sailing in international waters off the west coast of the main Japanese island of Honshu.

Meanwhile, the Liaoning CSG comprising of carrier CNS Liaoning (16), cruisers CNS Anshan (103) and CNS Wuxi (104), destroyer CNS Chengdu (120), frigate CNS Zhaozhuang (542) and fast combat support ship CNS Hulunhu (901) have been conducting operations in the Philippine Sea near Japan’s Daito Islands group, which lies around 360km southeast of Okinawa. A JSO release on Wednesday provided a table showing the sightings of ships from Saturday to Tuesday

Time and Date Location Ships sighted


17 December

260km west-southwest of Oki Daito Island Carrier Liaoning, cruiser Wuxi, destroyer Chengdu, frigate Zhaozhuang and fast combat support ship Hulunhu


18 December

350km east-southeast of Oki Daito Island Carrier Liaoning, destroyer Chengdu, frigate Zhaozhuang, and fast combat support ship Hulunhu


19 December

270km east-northeast of Kita Daito Island Carrier Liaoning, destroyer Chengdu and frigate Zhaozhuang


20 December

450km east-northeast of Kita Daito Island Carrier Liaoning, cruiser Anshan and destroyer Chengdu


The JSO release stated that during this period in the day, a total of 60 fighter aircraft launches, flights and recoveries were conducted along with 70 take-offs, flights and landings by helicopters on Liaoning. The release stated that destroyer JS Kirisame (DD-104) shadowed the PLAN CSG and Japan Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) fighter aircraft were scrambled in response to the carrier’s fighter activity. Kirisame has been shadowing the PLAN CSG since December 16 when it was sighted in the East China Sea.

On Friday, the JSO issued a release with the following table for Wednesday and Thursday’s activity by the PLAN CSG.


Time and Date Location Ships sighted


21 December

560km east of Kita Daito Island Carrier Liaoning, cruiser Wuxi and frigate Zhaozhuang


22 December

120km east of Okinotorishima Carrier Liaoning, cruiser Wuxi and frigate Zhaozhuang

The release stated that for the two days in daytime, 50 fighter aircraft launches, flights and recoveries were conducted along with 20 take-offs, flight and landings by helicopters on Liaoning. The release stated that PLAN CSG was monitored by Kirisame along with the destroyer helicopter carrier JS Izumo (DDH-183) and JASDF fighter aircraft were scrambled in response to Liaoning’s fighter activity.

A PLAN destroyer is operating near the Exclusive Economic Zone of French Polynesia, according to a social media post by the French Pacific Command on Friday, which posted photos taken by a French Navy Falcon 200 Guardian maritime surveillance aircraft. The hull number of the PLAN destroyer identifies it as CNS Yinchuan (175).

Aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN-68) is operating in the Philippine Sea, as well, according to a Tuesday JMSDF release. On Monday, JMSDF P-1s conducted tactical and interoperability exercises with Nimitz and its embarked aircraft along with U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon MPAs and U.S. Air Force (USAF) B-52 bombers. The release stated that the exercise took place in the sea area from the south of Iwo Jima to the east of Guam.

On Wednesday in Indonesia, the U.S. Navy and the Indonesian Navy concluded Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT)/Marine Exercise (MAREX) Indonesia 2022, according to a U.S. 7th Fleet release.

CARAT/MAREX Indonesia took place in Surabaya, Situbondo and in the Java Sea from Dec. 7-21 and focused on shared maritime security challenges of the region and increasing proficiency in amphibious operations according to the release. The exercise included a joint amphibious assault by the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) and the Indonesian Marine Corps. Indonesian ships in the exercise were frigates KRI Raden Eddy Martadinata (331) and KRI Abdul Halim Perdanakusuma (355), corvette KRI Diponegoro (365),patrol boat KRI Singa (651, ) landing platform dock KRI Surabaya (591) and landing ship tank KRI Teluk Palu (523), U.S Navy ships taking part were the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD-8) and amphibious transport dock USS Anchorage (LPD-23) along with their embarked 13th MEU units. Also taking part were a U.S Navy P-8A Poseidon MPA and two Indonesian Air Force F-16 fighters.

Makin Island and Anchorage, together with amphibious transport dock USS John P. Murtha (LPD-26) form the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group which left Naval Base San Diego in early November for a deployment to the Indo-Pacific region.

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.

Get USNI News updates delivered to your inbox