Military personnel of the Russian Air Defense Forces were learning how to drive and use weapons on modern wheeled infantry fighting vehicle, air defense systems and armored vehicle of the Chinese army, the Russian Defense Ministry said.
China and Russia launched a large-scale strategic military exercise in Northwest China on Monday, the first joint drill with another country hosted by China since the COVID-19 outbreak, with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) dispatching advanced weapons and equipment, including J-20 stealth fighter jets and Y-20 large transport planes, which were the highlight of the opening ceremony, learned GDC citing China Central Television (CCTV) news.
China has deployed the J-20 fighters in joint drills with its close ally Russia, and this, along with other exercise arrangements like sharing PLA main battle equipment with the Russian troops, displayed a high-level of cooperation between the Chinese and Russian militaries.
The Zapad/Interaction-2021 exercise started in the Qingtongxia Combined Arms Tactical Training Base in Northwest China’s Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region on Monday morning, as participating troops, weapons and equipment, including armored vehicles, wheeled assault guns, self-propelled howitzers, long-range multiple rocket launcher systems, surface-to-air missiles, drones and support vehicles, lined up under Helan Mountain at an opening ceremony, China Central Television (CCTV) reported.
Russian troops learn how to drive and use weapons on a medium wheeled tank and an armored vehicle of the PLA in preparation for Zapad/Interaction-2021 exercise in Northwest China’s Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region in August. Photo: Screenshot from the website of Russia’s Defense Ministry
Chinese and Russian troops have been eagerly preparing for the upcoming Zapad/Interaction-2021 exercise in China, with the participating Russian servicemen provided with modern weapons and equipment of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) for the first time in a move Chinese experts said displays high level of mutual trust and will enhance joint combat capabilities of the two militaries.
The Russian troops were provided with the PLA’s Type 11 wheeled assault gun and Type 08 infantry fighting vehicle, China Central Television (CCTV) reported on Wednesday.
Training was held with the direct participation of military instructors of the PLA ground forces in several stages with theoretical training, classes on electronic simulators, as well as practical driving and shooting, both individually and as part of units, according to the Tass news agency.
During the Kavkaz-2020 strategic drills held in Russia in September last year, Chinese troops for the first time used main battle weapons and equipment provided by the Russian military, including the T-72B3 tank, BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicle and Igla-S air defense missile, CCTV reported at that time.
All participating Russian troops and equipment have arrived in Ningxia by Saturday, including five Su-30 fighter jets, CCTV reported on the day.
Chinese troops, including army aviation, special operations and air defense forces have also been in intensive preparations for the exercise.
In a recent rehearsal to the exercise, an Army Aviation brigade affiliated with the PLA Xinjiang Military Command dispatched Mi-171 transport helicopters and carried not only soldiers of a special operations brigade, but also Lynx all-terrain assault vehicles for airborne combat, the PLA Western Theater Command revealed in a news release on Wednesday.
PLA air defense forces will deploy and are training with the HQ-17, one of the PLA’s most powerful brigade-level field air defense missile systems, CCTV reported on Tuesday.
It will be complemented by the Type 95 4-barrel 25-mm-caliber anti-aircraft artillery and surface-to-air missile system, according to the report.
The Zapad/Interaction-2021 exercise was announced by the Chinese Defense Ministry at a regular press conference on July 29.
A total of more than 10,000 personnel, multiple types of aircraft, artillery pieces and armored equipment will be dispatched mainly from the PLA Western Theater Command and Russia’s Eastern Military District in the exercise, with the aim of testing joint reconnaissance, early warning, electronic information attack and strike capabilities.
The purpose of the exercise is to consolidate the comprehensive strategic partnership in a new era, deepen the pragmatic cooperation and traditional friendship, and further display the determination and ability of both sides to combat terrorist forces and maintain regional peace and security, the Chinese Defense Ministry said.
Since 2018, China has participated in the Vostok-2018, Tsentr-2019 and Kavkaz-2020 strategic drills in Russia.
A total of six warplane echelons featuring J-20 stealth fighter jets, J-11 heavy fighter jets, J-16 multirole fighter jets, JH-7A fighter bombers, H-6K bombers and Y-20 large transport planes of the PLA Air Force put the opening ceremony to a climax.
Wrapping up the ceremony, General Li Zuocheng, director-in-chief of the exercise, also a member of the Central Military Commission (CMC) and chief of staff of the Joint Staff of the CMC, announced the start of the drills, CCTV reported.
The exercise set the theme of jointly safeguarding regional peace and stability, and is scheduled to conclude on Friday.
China showcases J-20
While having made public appearances in Airshow China and military parades, the J-20 stealth fighter jet had never participated in a joint exercise with another country until the Zapad/Interaction-2021 with Russia, observers said.
The appearance of the J-20 in the drills shows that the military cooperation, exchange and mutual trust between China and Russia have reached a very high level, since the J-20 is one of China’s most advanced hardware, Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and TV commentator, reported CCP backed news agency Global Times on Monday.
This will allow both sides to better understand each other’s way of combat and form better tacit understandings in future joint military operations and counter-terrorist missions, Wei Dongxu, a Beijing-based military expert, told the Global Times.
Observers also pointed out that the Zapad/Interaction-2021 is the first joint drill with another country hosted by China since the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020. Since 2018, China has participated in the Vostok-2018, Tsentr-2019 and Kavkaz-2020 strategic drills in Russia.
In another close military interaction with Russia, from August 22 to September 4, the PLA will host certain events of the International Army Games 2021 organized by the Russian Defense Ministry, and send contingents to other events in Russia, Belarus, Uzbekistan and Iran, the Chinese Defense Ministry announced in late July.
The exercises will reflect new concepts and new tactics, including saturation fire assault, airborne landing and seizure of in-depth hostile regions, and drone swarm assault, Major General Han Lin, director of the strategic and campaign-level training bureau at the Joint Staff of the CMC, was quoted by CCTV as saying on Monday.
Hundreds of vehicles from several dozen types will join the exercises, which will feature a variety of combat elements and aim at honing the troops’ joint combat capability, Colonel Cheng Liang, deputy commander at a combined arms brigade affiliated with the PLA 77th Group Army, reported CCTV.
Hundreds of munitions will be fired in one minute in a single drill area, Cheng said.
The PLA will also deploy artillery, including the country’s latest 155mm-caliber self-propelled howitzers, 122mm-caliber multiple rocket launcher systems and 120mm-caliber self-propelled mortars, China National Radio reported.
Thousands of artillery shells will be launched in the exercises, the report said.
More than 30 helicopters from the PLA Army Aviation Force will hold multi-dimensional, in-depth, high-mobility maneuvers at low altitudes, CCTV reported.
Z-10 attack helicopters will escort Mi-171 transport helicopters, which will carry soldiers of a special operations brigade and Lynx all-terrain assault vehicles for airborne combat.
The Y-20 and other types of transport aircraft will send airborne troops from higher in the sky at a larger scale, while also airdropping heavy equipment, including Type 03 airborne infantry fighting vehicles.
Russia’s Su-30 fighter jets arrived at the training base in late July and are expected to join the exercises together with the Chinese warplanes that were featured in the opening ceremony.
For air defense, the PLA will deploy the HQ-17, one of the PLA’s most powerful brigade-level field air defense missile systems together with the Type 95 4-barrel 25-mm-caliber anti-aircraft artillery and surface-to-air missile system, CCTV reported.
The Qingtongxia Combined Arms Tactical Training Base, where the exercise is being held, is located southeast of Helan Mountain, the geographical division of Northwest China. It has an altitude of about 2,000 meters, and is suitable for carrying out complicated military exercises for many different military branches, Shanghai-based Xinmin Evening News reported on Monday.
It hosted several major PLA exercises, including the “Crossover” and “Firepower” series exercises, the report said, noting that with complex terrains and well-rounded facilities, the Qingtongxia base will give the Chinese and Russian troops a realistic scenario test and hone their skills.
More than 10,000 personnel, multiple types of aircraft, artillery and armored equipment will be dispatched mainly from the PLA Western Theater Command and Russia’s Eastern Military District in the exercises, to test joint reconnaissance, early warning, electronic information attack and strike capabilities, the Chinese Defense Ministry said.
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