Chinese Navy Ship Operating Off of Australia, Canberra Says

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – A People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) intelligence ship is currently operating off the north-west shelf of Australia, the Australian Department of Defence said Friday. Australia’s DoD identified the vessel as China’s Dongdiao-class auxiliary intelligence ship Haiwangxing (792) and released imagery and video of the ship. A graphic of Haiwangxing’s voyage showed […]

People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) Intelligence Collection Vessel Haiwangxing operating off the north-west shelf of Australia. Australian Department of Defence Photo

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – A People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) intelligence ship is currently operating off the north-west shelf of Australia, the Australian Department of Defence said Friday.

Australia’s DoD identified the vessel as China’s Dongdiao-class auxiliary intelligence ship Haiwangxing (792) and released imagery and video of the ship.

A graphic of Haiwangxing’s voyage showed the ship crossed Australia’s exclusive economic zone on the morning of May 6. On Sunday, it was approximately 70 nautical miles off the Harold E. Holt Communications Station, in Exmouth, Western Australia, while a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft monitored the ship.

Harold E. Holt Communications Station provides Very Low Frequency (VLF) communication transmission services for Australian, the United States and Australian-allied submarines.

The Chinese ship continued sailing southwards, and on Monday, it was 150 nautical miles off Exmouth while an RAAF P-8 tracked the intelligence ship. At the same time, HMAS Perth (FFH157) sailed out from port to monitor Haiwangxing but subsequently turned back because the Chinese ship changed its sailing direction on Tuesday morning. Haiwangxing turned north, sailing at a speed of six knots, 125 nautical miles from Exmouth. An RAAF P-8 and an Australian Border Force (ABF) Dash-8 maritime surveillance aircraft monitored the ship.

On Wednesday, Haiwangxing sailed northeast at 12 knots, with the ship approaching as close as 50 nautical miles of the of Harold E. Holt Communication Station, while an RAAF P-8, ABF Dash-8 and ABF patrol vessel ABFC Cape Sorell monitored. Haiwangxing was last spotted on Friday at 6 a.m. local time, approximately 250 nautical miles northwest of Broome Western Australia. An RAAF P-8 and a Maritime Border Command Dash-8 maritime surveillance aircraft monitored the ship on Thursday.

“Australia respects the right of all states to exercise freedom of navigation and overflight in international waters and airspace, just as we expect others to respect our right to do the same. Defence will continue to monitor the ship’s operation in our maritime approaches,” the Australian DoD said in the news release.

Movements of PLAN Dongdiao AGI-792 near Australia May 8-13 2022. Australian Department of Defence Photo

Meanwhile, over in the Philippine Sea, the PLAN’s CNS Liaoning (16) carrier strike group continues flight operations, according to the Japanese Ministry of Defense’s daily news releases this week. Liaoning; Type 055 destroyer CNS Nanchang (101); Type 052D destroyers CNS Xining (117), CNS Urumqi (118) and CNS Chengdu (120); Type 052C destroyer CNS Zhengzhou (151); Type 054A frigate CNS Xiangtan (531); and Type 901 fast combat support ship CNS Hulunhu (901) sailed into the Pacific Ocean via the Miyako Strait earlier this month.

The carrier and ships in its CSG performed a series of flight operations four days in a row this week. On 9 a.m. Sunday local time, Liaoning, the two Type 052D destroyers and Hulunhu were sighted 160 kilometers south of Ishigaki Island conducting flight operations with its embarked J-15 fighter aircraft and Z-18 helicopters from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., according to news releases from Japan’s Joint Staff Office.

On Monday, the same ships were seen at 10 a.m. sailing 200 kilometers south of Ishigaki Island, performing flight operations from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. On Tuesday at 9 a.m., the group was sailing 310 kilometers south of Ishigaki Island, performing flight operations from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. On Wednesday at 9 a.m., Liaoning and two Type 052D destroyers were seen 160 kilometers south of Ishigaki Island, again performing flight operations from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) destroyer helicopter carrier JS Izumo (DDH-183) has tracked the Liaoning carrier strike group since May 2. Japanese destroyer JS Suzutsuki (DD-117) took over the task of tracking the Liaoning carrier group on Tuesday.

A People’s Liberation Army Navy J-15 carrier fighter takes off from Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning (16) on May 7, 2022. Japanese MoD Photo

Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) fighter aircraft scrambled each day in response to the J-15 launches, according to the news release. In a Tuesday press conference, Japan Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said the Chinese carried out a total of 100 sorties with its J-15s and Z-18s from Liaoning between May 3 and May 8.

While the activities of the PLAN carrier group were likely aimed at improving its aircraft carriers’ operational capabilities and its ability to carry out operations away from home, Kishi said Japan is concerned about the operations given that they were happening close to the Ryuku Islands and Taiwan. The Japanese Ministry of Defense will continue to monitor such activities, he said.

The Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group is also operating in the Philippine Sea. Earlier this week, the CSG conducted deterrence missions in the Philippine Sea by performing long-range maritime strike with refueling help from Pacific Air Forces KC-135 Stratotankers, according to a U.S. 7th Fleet news release issued Friday.

An F/A-18E Super Hornet, assigned to the “Tophatters” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 14, prepares to make an arrested landing on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) in the Philippine Sea on May 12, 2022. U.S. Navy Photo

USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72), destroyers USS Spruance (DDG-111) and USS Dewey (DDG-105), and cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG-53) also performed multi-domain training to defend the carrier, according to the news release.

“Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group is a powerful presence in the Philippine Sea that serves as a deterrent to aggressive or malign actors and supports a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Rear Adm. J.T. Anderson, the commander of carrier strike group Three, said in the release. “There is no better way to strengthen our combat-credible capabilities than to work alongside other joint forces to demonstrate our commitment to sovereignty, the region, and a rules-based international order.”

German Navy Chief: Frigate Deployment to Indo-Pacific First of Biannual Deployments to Region

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA – The current six-month-plus deployment of German frigate FGS Bayern (F217) to the Indo-Pacific is the initial step toward a regular biannual naval deployment to the region, German Navy Chief Vice Adm. Kay-Achim Schönbach said today. During his speech at the International Institute of Strategic Studies’ 42nd Fullerton Lecture series in Singapore, […]

FGS Bayern at Changi Naval Base, Singapore. German Embassy, Singapore Photo

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA – The current six-month-plus deployment of German frigate FGS Bayern (F217) to the Indo-Pacific is the initial step toward a regular biannual naval deployment to the region, German Navy Chief Vice Adm. Kay-Achim Schönbach said today.

During his speech at the International Institute of Strategic Studies’ 42nd Fullerton Lecture series in Singapore, Schönbach said Bayern’s deployment was to enable the German Navy to familiarize itself with the region, given its last presence here was 19 years ago. He said that, subject to the final decision of the German government, he intends to have German maritime assets deploy to the region on a regular basis, then potentially also in an international format together with European and Transatlantic partner navies.

His intention is to send ships into the region again in 2023.

“This time was just a frigate, as a teaser to prepare for the next time, where there will be two,” the German Navy Chief said.

The 2023 deployment is slated to include a frigate accompanied by an auxiliary ship to support the frigate. Schönbach also said that with the newer F125 Baden-Württemberg-class frigates, the deployment scope could be expanded further, as the ships are capable of remaining in the region for up to two years with a crew rotation in place. The German Navy was in discussions with partners in the region – particularly Singapore along with potentially Japan and South Korea – for the establishment of a non-permanent logistics support hub to facilitate the deployments, Schönbach said.

He noted that while the German Navy would not deploy to the Indo-Pacific in 2022, German Chief of Defence Gen. Eberhard Zorn has announced that German Air Force units, as well as cyber defense units, will deploy to the region in 2022. The Luftwaffe is scheduled to deploy six Eurofighters, three Airbus A330 tankers and three A400M transport aircraft for the Royal Australian Air Force’s Pitch Black multinational air combat exercise, scheduled for Sept. 5 through Sept. 23, 2022 in Australia, though Germany is also said to be talking to other countries in the Indo-Pacific about bilateral exercises next year.

Schönbach said that Bayern’s deployment was in line with Germany’s Indo-Pacific policy guidelines that has Germany committed to step up its security and defense engagement in the region.

“Germany is committed to strengthening the rules-based international order in the Indo-Pacific region to ensure that it remains a place of inclusive cooperation. Germany advocates open shipping routes, open markets and free trade, a level playing field while at the same time promoting digitalization, connectivity and human rights,” he said, adding that the deployment of Bayern is intended to underpin the security aspect of Germany’s commitment in the Indo-Pacific.

FGS Bayern at Changi Naval Base, Singapore. German Embassy, Singapore Photo

During the question and answer session, Schönbach was asked about Bayern not transiting the international waters of the Taiwan Strait. He replied that from the beginning, Bayern was not planning to pass through the Taiwan Strait, as this deployment was a step by step progression for the German Navy after a 19-year absence from the region. Schönbach said he would recommend to the German government that it conduct a transit of the Taiwan Strait during the next deployment.

The German Navy Chief said that while Bayern’s independent deployment with a predominantly bilateral format for its activities may appear to be a contradiction of the German government’s emphasis on multilateralism, it was more beneficial to carry out a bilateral approach, given this was the first deployment.

“I, too, thought long and hard beforehand whether it would be advantageous to sail together with our American, British and/or French partners, integrated into an international naval task group,” he said. “In hindsight I am convinced that it has been a good decision to conduct most of the visits in a bilateral format, in particular as this is the first deployment in this context. By doing so, we have been able to intensify the dialogue with our partners to the benefit of all parties involved.”

Schönbach said that while the integration of a German Navy ship into a U.S., United Kingdom or French carrier task group would make sense both on a practical and logistical basis, doing so would depend on feedback from Germany’s regional partners about Bayern’s deployment. As to whether they preferred Germany to conduct its naval engagement bilaterally or as part of a multilateral group, he said: “We don’t want to be here to demonstrate in a group with others or bringing in a European or NATO problem to this region.”

Earlier today, Schönbach and German Ambassador Norbert Riedel formally welcomed Bayern at Changi Naval Base in Singapore. The ship arrived on Monday. Prior to its arrival in Singapore, Bayern’s previous activities included conducting an exercise with Littoral Combat Ships USS Jackson (LCS-6) and USS Tulsa (LCS-16) in the Philippine Sea in October.

In November, the frigate participated in the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s ANNUALEX exercise, which also included participation from the Royal Australian Navy, the Royal Canadian Navy and the U.S. Navy. Bayern also conducted maritime surveillance and monitoring operations in support of the United Nations Security Council sanctions on North Korea last month. While voyaging to Singapore from its last port call in Busan, South Korea, Bayern was replenished by USNS Yukon (T-AO-202).

The ship will now remain in Singapore until January 2022, when it will leave for Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam for its next port call.

U.S. Begins Exercise Off Japan with Canadian, German and Australian Navies

KUALA LUMPUR – Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan and the United States are conducting naval drills in the Philippine Sea off the southern coast of Japan for the next week. The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force exercise, known as ANNUALEX 2021, began on Sunday and will continue through Nov. 30. The exercise is a yearly naval training […]

Fifteen ships from the Royal Australian Navy, Royal Canadian Navy, German Navy, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) and U.S. Navy sail in formation during Annual Exercise (ANNUALEX), Nov. 21. U.S. Navy Photo

KUALA LUMPUR – Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan and the United States are conducting naval drills in the Philippine Sea off the southern coast of Japan for the next week.

The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force exercise, known as ANNUALEX 2021, began on Sunday and will continue through Nov. 30. The exercise is a yearly naval training event led by the JMSDF, with navies from other countries invited to participate in the event. This year’s iteration marks the first time the German Navy is taking part in these drills.

The exercise will “include enhanced maritime communication tactics, anti-submarine warfare operations, air warfare operations, replenishments-at-sea, cross-deck flight operations and maritime interdiction maneuvers,” U.S. 7th Fleet said in a news release.

The Chief of the German Navy, Vice Adm. Kay-Achim Schönbach, reiterated in the release his earlier announcement about a regular German Navy deployment to the Indo-Pacific region.

“The German navy will strengthen its commitment to the region through deeper security and defense cooperation with regional partners,” Schönbach said in the news release. “Germany would seek to send a frigate every two years to the Indo-Pacific region with a supply ship.”

German frigate FGS Bayern (F217) is currently on a deployment to the region and participating in the ANNUALEX 2021 exercise. It remains to be seen, however, if the incoming German coalition government that is about to form will support and commit to a regular German naval deployment to the Indo-Pacific.

The U.S. is participating with aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) with embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2, cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG-57), destroyer USS Stockdale (DDG-106), replenishment ships USNS Rappahannock (T-AO-204) and USNS John Ericsson (T-AO-194) and an unnamed Los Angeles-class submarine.

“ANNUALEX presents an opportunity to strategically coordinate, collaborate and further strengthen our network of partnerships and alliances, enabling us to remain a flexible, adaptable and persistent combined force capable of quickly projecting power, where and when needed,” Rear Adm. Dan Martin, the commander of Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 1, said in the release.

Canadian frigate HMCS Winnipeg’s (FFH338) participation in the exercise is its last major engagement for its presence deployment in the region before the ship sails for home. The Royal Australian Navy is participating with destroyer HMAS Brisbane (D41) and frigate HMAS Warramunga (FFH152). Prior to the exercise, Warramunga and Bayern were on separate monitoring and surveillance patrols in the East China Sea in support of United Nations sanctions on North Korea.

Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) Asagiri-class destroyer JS Yamagiri (DD 152), left, JMSDF Asahi-class destroyer JS Asahi (DD 119), and JMSDF Akizuki-class destroyer JS Teruzuki (DD 116) sail in formation during Annual Exercise (ANNUALEX), Nov. 21. U.S. Navy Photo

JMSDF units taking part in the exercise include helicopter destroyer JS Izumo (DDH-183), destroyers JS Inazuma (DD-105), JS Harusame (DD-102), JS Onami (DD-111), JS Teruzuki (DD-116), JS Asahi (DD-119), JS Yamagiri (DD-152), JS Kirishima (DDG-174), JS Chokai (DDG-176) and a JMSDF submarine.

“Many naval forces (United States, Australia, Canada and firstly Germany) will join this JMSDF exercise. I’m very proud to participate in the exercise as a commander of surface forces,” Rear Adm. Komuta Shukaku, the commander of Escort Flotilla 1, said in the 7th Fleet release. “We will strengthen the cooperation among those navies through this high-end tactical exercise.”

In other developments, Malaysia and the U.S. began Maritime Training Activity (MTA) Malaysia 2021 virtually and in the waters and airspace of the Strait of Malacca on Tuesday. The exercise, according to a separate 7th Fleet news release, will take place across eight days and emphasize “the full spectrum of naval capabilities and features cooperative evolutions that highlight the ability of the U.S. and Malaysia to work together toward the common goal of ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

The U.S. Navy will participate with Littoral Combat Ship USS Tulsa (LCS-16) and a P-8A Poseidon aircraft from CTF 72. The Royal Malaysian Navy is expected to deploy frigate KD Lekiu (FFGH30) and corvette KD Lekir (FSG26) for the drills.

“Our commitment to dedicating resources in exercises is a testament to our innate belief in the power of sharing responsibility in ensuring regional security,” Rear Adm. Chris Engdahlb, the commander of Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 7, said in the release. “MTA Malaysia 2021 represents another step forward.”

The at-sea portion of the exercise will feature training for “divisional tactics designed to enhance communication as ships sail together in complex maneuver,” 7th Fleet said.
“Other focus areas include surface warfare, mobile dive and salvage training, replenishment-at-sea, a gunnery exercise, and exchanges between Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians.”

Malaysia and the U.S. will also participate in exchange engagements for subject matter experts to drill for multiple missions ranging from diving and salvage to maritime law and law enforcement, according to 7th Fleet.

“The intergovernmental organization personnel from the European Union’s Critical Maritime Routes Indo-Pacific (EU-CRIMARIO) initiative will provide subject matter expertise aimed to aid in understanding of the operational environment, and 7th Fleet desires to continue this approach in future iterations,” 7th Fleet said.

MTA Malaysia is part of the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise series. The U.S. already completed the Indonesia and Brunei phases of the series earlier this month. MTA Malaysia has resumed with safety mitigation measures after being cancelled in 2020 due to restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, Russia announced the first-ever Russia-Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) naval exercise, which will kick off on Dec. 1. The Russian Mission to ASEAN announced the news on Tuesday in a social media post.

Destroyer Admiral Panteleyev (548) will represent Russia in the exercise, which will continue through Dec. 3 in Indonesian territorial waters off the coast of North Sumatera. ASEAN nations have yet to release which of their naval ships will participate. This exercise will make Russia the third country, after China and the U.S., to hold naval exercises with the regional body. China conducted exercises with ASEAN in 2018 and 2019, while the U.S. conducted one in 2019. Additional exercises have not been carried out since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

U.S. Vinson Carrier Strike Group Drills with Japanese Force in South China Sea

KUALA LUMPUR – While the United Kingdom’s Carrier Strike Group 21 (CSG21) has departed the Western Pacific, there is still a significant amount of maritime activity from deployed naval groups The main body of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Indo-Pacific Deployment 2021 (IPD21) task group, which includes JMSDF helicopter destroyer JS Kaga (DDH-184) and JS […]

Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Shiloh (CG 67), U.S. Navy Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG 57), U.S. Navy Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Milius (DDG 69), Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) Murasame-class destroyer JS Murasame (DD 101), and JMSDF Izumo-class helicopter destroyer JS Kaga (DDH 184) transit together in the South China Sea on Oct. 30, 2021. US Navy Photo

KUALA LUMPUR – While the United Kingdom’s Carrier Strike Group 21 (CSG21) has departed the Western Pacific, there is still a significant amount of maritime activity from deployed naval groups
The main body of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Indo-Pacific Deployment 2021 (IPD21) task group, which includes JMSDF helicopter destroyer JS Kaga (DDH-184) and JS Murasame (DD101), carried out joint training in the South China Sea with the Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group from Oct. 29 through Nov. 3. The American CSG includes carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) and embarked Carrier Air Wing 2 (CVW 2), cruisers USS Lake Champlain (CG-57) and USS Shiloh, (CG-67) and destroyer USS Milius (DDG-69).

Rear Adm. Dan Martin, the commander of Carrier Strike Group 1, came aboard Kaga for a meeting with Rear Adm. Ikeuchi Izuru, the commander of Escort Flotilla 3, according to an Oct. 30 JMSDF news release. The two commanders discussed the significance of the joint activities of Japanese and U.S. naval forces in the South China Sea.

Following the training, Kaga and Murasame then made a port call in Cam Ranh, Vietnam from Nov. 5 to 7 and conducted an exercise with the Vietnam People’s Navy (VPN) frigate Đinh Tiên Hoàng (HQ-011) upon departure.

Meanwhile, the remaining JMSDF ship of the IPD 21 task group, destroyer JS Shiranui (DD-120), conducted joint training from Oct. 28 through Nov. 4 in the South China Sea, the East China Sea and the Japan Sea with American destroyer USS Higgins (DDG-76) and replenishment ship USNS Big Horn (T-AO-198).

Closer to home, JMSDF replenishment ship JS Oumi (AOE-426) conducted training with American destroyer USS Dewey (DDG-105) in the waters off Okinawa last Wednesday. On the same day, USS America (LHA-6) conducted integrated training off the coast of Kyushu with JMSDF helicopter destroyer JS Ise (DDH-182); destroyers JS Harusame (DD 102) and JS Asahi (DD 119); missile patrol boat JS Otaka (PG 826); and minesweepers JS Takashima (MSC 603), JS Harishima (MSC 601) and JS Yakushima (MSC 602).

Meanwhile, several Royal Australian Navy ships have completed their deployments to the Indo-Pacific. Frigate HMAS Ballarat (FFH155) and replenishment ship HMAS Sirius (O266) are now back in Australia after a deployment that saw Ballarat participating in phase two of the Malabar exercise off India and Sirius replenishing RAN and partner nation ships in both the Indian Ocean and Southeast Asian waters.

The deployment is Sirius’s last operational deployment, as the ship will be decommissioned in December. The RAN’s Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2021 (IPE21) task group, comprising of LHD HMAS Canberra (L02) and frigate HMAS Anzac (FFH150), is now heading home. The IPE21 task group departed Australia in late August for a series of engagements with Australia’s partners in Southeast Asia and to participate in the Five Powers Defence Arrangement (FPDA) exercise Bersama Gold. The last official activity for IPE21 was Exercise New Horizon 21 between Anzac and Indonesian Navy frigate KRI I Gusti Ngurah Rai (332) and corvette KRI Malahayati (362). The exercise took place in the Java Sea and Bali Sea from Oct. 31 through Nov. 3.

The Royal New Zealand Navy replenishment ship HMNZS Aotearoa (A11) also returned home, arriving in Auckland on Sunday following an Indo-Pacific deployment that included participating in Bersama Gold. Frigate HMNZS Te Kaha (F77), which was deployed with Aotearoa, is still on deployment. RAN destroyer HMAS Brisbane (D41), currently moored in Japan, and frigate HMAS Warramunga (FFH152) – which is on surveillance patrols in the East China Sea in support of United Nations sanctions on North Korea – are also both still deployed. Brisbane has had a replacement MH-60R Seahawk transported to Japan via a. Royal Australia Air Force C-17 to replace the one it lost in a non-fatal crash in the Philippine Sea in October.

German Navy frigate Bayern (F217) is also in Japan, docking at the Tokyo International Cruise Terminal on Friday, when it was greeted by Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi, German Chief of Defence General Eberhard Zorn and German Navy Chief Vice Adm. Kay-Achim Schönbach. In mid-November, Bayern will begin the first-ever German participation in monitoring and surveillance activities in support of the U.N. sanctions on North Korea. New Zealand announced last week that a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion aircraft will deploy from Kadena Air Base in Japan to conduct aerial surveillance and monitoring in support of the sanctions. A Canadian Air Force CP-140 maritime patrol aircraft is conducting the aerial mission until mid-November, while a French Navy Falcon 200 is wrapping up its participation in the mission, according to press reports.

Meanwhile, Russian Navy corvette Gremyashchiy (337) and submarines Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky (B274) and Volkhov (B603) passed through the Singapore Strait on Friday. The corvette and submarines were previously part of the Russian Navy’s Baltic Fleet and are now en-route to their new home bases as part of Russia’s Pacific Fleet.