Five months after it made its first deployment to the western Pacific, People’s Liberation Army Navy carrier CNS Shandong (17) is back conducting drills, according to Taiwan Ministry of National Defense. Also on Monday, Japan’s Ministry of Defense reported a total of eight PLAN ships transited the Miyako Strait to enter the Philippine Sea.
On Monday, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense issued a release saying Shandong was located 60 nautical miles southeast of Cape Eluanbi and had sailed east into the western Pacific to conduct air training. In addition, 13 People’s Liberation Army aircraft had been detected since 5:40 am on Monday, and 11 of the aircraft crossed into Taiwan’s southwest air-defense identification zone. The Taiwanese military was closely monitoring the developments, according to the release, and would dispatch “mission aircraft, ships and shore-based missile systems to respond appropriately,” the release stated.
The release did not state if Shandong was accompanied by other PLAN ships, but that is likely the case. In April, Shandong set out for its first-ever deployment into the western Pacific with frigate CNS Liuzhou (573) and fleet oiler CNS Chaganhu (905), and subsequently was joined by other PLAN ships as it operated in the Philippine Sea. It is likely several, if not all, of the PLAN ships that transited the Miyako Strait on Monday, will link up with the carrier.
On Monday, Japan’s Ministry of Defense issued a release stating three PLAN destroyers and two PLAN frigates were sighted sailing southeast in an area 87 miles northwest of Miyako Island: destroyers CNS Baotou (133), CNS Shaoxing (134) and CNS Ningbo (139) and frigates CNS Honghe (523) and CNS Yixing (537). Three PLAN destroyers were also sighted sailing south in an area 143 miles northeast of Taisho Island: CNS Fuzhou (137), CNS Zhengzhou (151) and CNS Xiamen (154).
The two PLAN surface action groups then sailed through the Miyako Strait between Okinawa and Miyako Island to enter the Philippine Sea. Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) frigate JS Noshiro (FFM-3), fleet oiler JS Towada (AOE-422), minesweeper JS Kuroshima (MSC-692) and a JMSDF P-3C Orion Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) shadowed the PLAN ships, the Ministry of Defense said.
Shandong’s April deployment saw it operate for a total of 19 days in the Philippine Sea before it returned to the South China Sea. During that time, one cruiser, two destroyers, two frigates and two replenishment ships formed part of the carrier strike group as it conducted aircraft launches and recovery, though not all the ships were continuously present.