Marines need to be beefed up to provide offshore support: expert
China's military is eyeing more aircraft carriers to enhance its capabilities, experts said, as the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Daily reported the achievements of the Chinese navy since 1949.
Sunday marks the 68th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese navy, with the PLA Daily listing the navy's achievements, including escorting ships at sea, building an aircraft battle group, and joint military exercises.
As a country with an 18,000 kilometer-long coastline and vast maritime resources under its watch, China needs to build a strong navy to protect its sovereignty and maritime interests, safeguard the security of strategic maritime channels and engage in international cooperation amid mounting maritime disputes and challenging maritime safety conditions, the PLA Daily said on Thursday.
China has enhanced the battle capabilities of its aircraft carrier, with more than 10 pilots from carrier-based jet fighters and commanders getting their certificates, making China one of the few countries capable of training its own pilots for aircraft carriers, the PLA Daily report said.
"In the long run, China needs to develop its own aircraft carrier battle teams, with at least six aircraft carriers, maritime forces led by guided missile destroyers, as well as attack submarines," Xu Guangyu, a senior advisor to the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, told the Global Times.
"It was a big step for China to enhance the fighting capability after its aircraft carrier completed a live-fire drill, conducting exercises in various regions and training in the western Pacific Ocean for the first time in 2016," read the report.
The marine corps also needs to be beefed up to around 80,000 to 100,000 to offer offshore support, or 5 percent of the PLA, he added.
These aircraft carriers will enable the PLA Navy to break through the first island chain involving South Korea, Japan, Taiwan island and the Philippines to achieve command of the sea, Xu said.
"China will build about 10 more bases for the six aircraft carriers," Xu said, adding that they can be built around countries friendly to China, such as Pakistan.
"Hopefully, China could have bases in every continent, but that depends on countries which would like to cooperate with China," Xu said.
China is close to completing its second aircraft carrier, which will begin service by 2020, China Central Television reported, citing military experts.
The PLA Daily report also said patrols to safeguard China's maritime interests have been standardized, with more than 100 patrol boats and jet fighters patrolling key areas.