Multiple minesweeper flotillas attached to the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Southern Theater Command and Eastern Theater Command recently held live-fire exercises, honing their capability to effectively and rapidly clear sea lanes from mines, and open passages for other warships and landing forces, amid Taiwan secessionists’ attempt to surround the Taiwan Straits with mines.
Although the reports didn’t mention if the drills took place in the Taiwan Straits, the moves showed that the PLA has sufficient capability to thwart any attempt of deploying sea mines to obstruct the PLA’s operations, and Taiwan’s tactics of laying mines in the Taiwan Straits to buy time for US reinforcements will not succeed, Chinese mainland experts said on Monday.
The anti-sea mine exercises come amid the PLA’s drills in the Taiwan Straits aimed at Taiwan secessionists and the US, who have been ramping up tensions in the Taiwan Straits.
An anti-sea mine flotilla consisting of the Liuyang, the Kaiping, and the Changshu affiliated with the PLA Southern Theater Command recently conducted a mine-sweeping exercise using live sea mines, China Central Television (CCTV) reported on Sunday.
The ships covered the calm sea, under which smart sea mines were hidden, as they would explode once they detect any sound or magnetic field change caused by ships passing by, the report said. Sonar systems and minesweeping robots were deployed to detect, identify and dismantle the mines, the report said.
“In this exercise, we comprehensively tested the anti-sea mine ships’ ability to react quickly, deal with complicated situations, and carry out anti-sea mine tasks by setting realistic combat scenarios, battlefield environment and difficult training subjects,” He Jing, captain of the Liuyang, told CCTV.
Another anti-sea mine flotilla involving the Rudong and the Jiangshan affiliated with the PLA Eastern Theater Command recently conducted comprehensive anti-sea mine training in the East China Sea, a separate CCTV report said last week.
In addition to clearing different types of sea mines, including drifting and moored mines, the ships also conducted live-fire anti-aircraft exercises, the report said.
Minesweepers can serve as trailblazers and provide safe passage for other ships, analysts said.
Reuters reported last week that the US is pushing an arms sales surge to Taiwan, including smart, underwater sea mines. Taiwan has also been constructing mine-laying vessels, the first of which is expected to be delivered by the end of the year, reports said in August.
Chinese mainland military experts reached by the Global Times said that by laying mines in the Taiwan Straits, the island is attempting to slow down a potential PLA amphibious landing on the island, as the island wrongly believes the PLA would need a long time to sweep the mines and not launch a full-scale amphibious assault before sea lanes are cleared. This way, it thinks it could buy enough time and wait for US reinforcements.
The recent PLA drills showed that Taiwan’s mine tactics will fail since the PLA has the ability to sweep sea mines and open passages very fast, experts said, noting that PLA troops can also carry out airborne landing operations, which will allow them to avoid the sea mines.
The deployment of sea mines will only isolate the island from the rest of the world, but will not be able to stop a potential amphibious landing by the PLA, experts said.