Several years of improved training
is showing off for the Chinese submarine force. Foreign navies are increasingly
encountering Chinese submarines at sea, and noting that the crews of these
boats seem to know what they are doing.
Until about five years ago, Chinese submarine
training was simplistic and inefficient, and it showed. Back then, sub crews
trained by themselves. Subs would go to sea in the morning, and return by
evening. Combat training concentrated on making attacks on enemy ships, to the
exclusion of practically everything else. Chinese naval commanders finally
updated their submarine doctrine (several subs operating together, and emphasis
on defeating enemy anti-sub methods and weapons), and realized they had to
update their training as well.
Changing decades old training methods wasn't easy.
A lot of officers and NCOs had to be removed to make it work. The new training
keeps groups of boats at sea for several days, or longer, at a time. Crews are
trained on what to expect from enemy (mainly U.S. and Taiwanese) anti-submarine
forces, and how to defeat it. Coordination and cooperation is emphasized. The
crews are getting more computerized simulations, so they can do a lot of this
training on land, or while their boats are tied up.
However, the new training puts the boats to sea
longer, and on a more sustained basis.
On the down side, only about a third of China's
diesel-electric subs are up to the rigors of a heavy training schedule at
sea. No problem, Chinese submarine crews
are training for the future, when most of their subs will be like the few
current Kilo class, or better. Meanwhile, the crews in the older, harder to
maintain, boats, spend more time using the simulators, and working on their
subs, getting them ready for the next training cruise.
The improved training has been noted in the media
by more frequent sightings of Chinese subs at sea. This was rare until a few
years ago. It's rare no longer and will be rare no more.