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Report: PLA Navy Runs Into Crewing Difficulties for Growing Fleet

PLA Navy
File image courtesy PLA Navy

Published Jan 3, 2023 6:05 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Navy has had to make well-publicized adaptations this year in order to meet its end-strength goals, but it isn't the only naval service with a need to solve manning gaps. America's pacing threat at sea, China's PLA Navy, may be experiencing talent and training challenges of its own, according to a critique published in the military-controlled PLA Daily. 

In a recent article entitled "Equipment Awaiting Talent," the PLA Daily reports a "training resources imbalance" in the crewing pipeline for the PLA Navy's growing fleet of high-tech newbuilds. 

"In recent years, as new warships have been commissioned and old ships retired, the problem of ‘equipment awaiting talent’ has become increasingly severe," the PLA Daily reported. "In particular, due to a training resources imbalance, it is difficult to systematically organize the training of some commanders and key soldiers; and it is difficult to organize the final training assessments as scheduled."

The technological jump from the previous generation of PLA Navy vessels to the next generation is steep, and substantial retraining is required for Chinese officers and sailors to make the transition, Chinese military analysts told the SCMP, which first reported the story.

In addition to modernization, China's naval fleet is also expanding in size, stretching manning and training resources. According to the Pentagon's latest assessment, the PLA Navy's fleet currently stands at 340 ships and is on track to expand to 400-plus ships by 2025, with growth centered on destroyers and cruisers.

This shipbuilding boom will require finding and training enough new sailors for 60 more warships within two years, on top of the challenge of retraining current servicemembers to operate new hulls.