A fleet of four ships from China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) was recently photographed cruising towards a US Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) near Alaska’s the Aleutian Islands, according to the US Coast Guard.
US defense website The Drive reported the images were shot between August 29 and 30, but were released only recently by the US government’s Defense Visual Information Distribution Service (DVIDS). The Drive reported that the original caption provided by DVIDS stated, “the PLAN task force included a guided missile cruiser, a guided missile destroyer, a general intelligence vessel, and an auxiliary vessel.”
China’s state-owned media reported that the four ships were likely part of a flotilla that passed east from the Soya Strait on August 24, putting them on a course that would have brought them close to Alaska. The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force identified the four ships like the “Type 055 destroyer Nanchang, the Type 052D destroyer Guiyang, a Type 903A supply ship with hull number 903, and a surveillance ship with hull number 799.”
Type 055 is classified as a ‘cruiser’ by the US Navy. The Type 055 class of ships is China’s most advanced surface warship to date, with a sophisticated radar system capable of engaging multiple targets in the air.
The Global Times noted the passage of ships near Alaska “could also be seen as a countermeasure against US military provocations on China’s doorsteps in the name of freedom of navigation”.
The PLAN had made a similar passage off Alaska in September 2015. At that time, five warships were involved in the passage, which the US described as “innocent passage” passing within 12 nautical miles of the Aleutian Islands.