Naval Air: China Embraces Jointness


May 29, 2011: In China, the navy and air force both have fighter and bomber squadrons stationed near the coast. Both services train the pilots of these aircraft to operate over water and attack naval targets. Of course, the navy has more aircraft with specialized equipment (radars optimized for searching open water) for searching for, and attacking ships (with special missiles.) Rather than battle each other over who should control these coastal combat squadrons, the navy and air force, in many areas cooperate. On Hainan Island (off the south coast) there is even an air base shared by air force and naval combat aircraft. In one area, stationing combat squadrons on offshore islands, the air force is ahead of the navy (which is more interested in providing air defense for naval bases and bomber units that can find and attack enemy warships.)

The air force generals and navy admirals have apparently drawn up plans on how to operate, and fight, together in wartime. This includes some joint training for air force units and their naval counterparts (as in air force fighters providing protection for navy bombers going after enemy warships.) But air force and navy units that do not undertake this kind of planning and training will largely ignore nearby air units from the other service, until forced into some improvised cooperation during wartime. This is what the most senior navy and air force commanders want to avoid. But there are limited resources for planning, and, especially, training (flying time is very expensive). So it's impressive that navy and air force commanders have overcome these problems to establish joint planning and training.



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