On February 16th China took another step in integrating women into the crews of combat ships. On that day China sent another three ships off to the Somali coast to serve on the international anti-piracy patrol. One of those ships, a 4,800 ton Type 052 class destroyer, had eight female sailors among its crew of 260. This four month voyage will test the suitability of women as part of a warship crew. The Chinese are confident this will work because it has with many other modern navies.
The Chinese Navy has long noted the success of Western navies at integrating women into previously all-male crews. China has increasingly used women in the military, especially when not enough men with certain skills could be obtained. That’s why Western nations have been recruiting more women. Ship captains don’t really care if essential personnel (like operators or maintainers of high-tech gear) are male or female as long as the job gets done.
China has been moving towards using women on warships for a long time. Back in 2002 the Chinese Navy sent four female soldiers along on round the world “showing the flag” by some of their ships. The four female soldiers seemed to get along just fine. In 2010 the Chinese Navy established a training school for female sailors. Just to be on the safe side, the first class consisted of 24 female soldiers who had volunteered to go through the five month course and become sailors. Last year 12 of those sailors joined the crew of the same destroyer that is now off to Somalia.
The Chinese military has been having an increasingly difficult time recruiting the skilled people it needs to operate and maintain the growing number of high-tech weapons and systems. Bringing in more women is seen as the most likely solution to this problem, just as it was in the West.