China: April 10, 2000

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The arrival of the first of four Sovremenny-class destroyers bought by China from Russia provides the Chinese Navy (technically the "Navy of the People's Liberation Army") with a considerable improvement in capabilities. Each destroyer will carry eight Russian Sunburn anti-ship missiles, the world's fastest sea-skimmers. These destroyers are, for all practical purposes, the only ones with a fair chance of spotting and destroying Taiwan's submarines, and their chances are better than fair. China has bought a powerful Navy, designed for force projection, from the Russians. Besides the four destroyers are four Kilo-class submarines and dozens of long-range fighters. The Chinese tried and failed to produce such ships and aircraft for themselves. And this may reflect a problem. The Chinese, unable to design or build a submarine like the outstanding Kilo, have been unable to maintain their own Kilos. Two of the four are laid up along side the pier for major overhauls caused by poor crew training and shoddy maintenance. To avoid this problem,
the crews of the destroyers are being sent to Russian bases for extensive training, first on similar ships of the Russian Navy and then on their own new ship. This is one reason why some doubt that the Chinese will attempt to deploy an aircraft carrier within the next decade. Without any experience in such a ship, they might literally not know what to do with it or how to keep it operational. --Stephen V Cole

 

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