PLA Zubr Class Hovercraft
The Russian and Chinese navies have joined forces for eight days of intensive exercises in the South China Seas.
 
The show of force, called Joint Sea 2016, will be the largest of its type since the two countries started conducting such drills together in 2012.
 
According to sources from the People's Liberation Army Navy the exercises will focus on the 'seizure and control' of islands and shoals.
 
The Chinese Defence Ministry said the drills were “routine” and were not aimed at any other country. Their spokesman, Yang Yujun, said: 
"This is a routine exercise between the two armed forces, aimed at strengthening the developing China-Russia strategic cooperative partnership. The exercise is not directed against third parties."
The exact locations have not been disclosed but surface ships, submarines, helicopters and aircraft will all feature.
 
In addition live-firing exercises will be conducted by Marines from both countries using amphibious landing craft and vehicles.
 
Among the ships likely to feature will be China's giant Zubr hovercrafts, capable of carrying three tanks in their cavernous holds. 
 
 
Recent island building and territorial claims by China in the contested South China Seas have been the subject of much international concern.
 
It has been accused of building military bases on the islands, some of which are man-made, and of deploying missiles to the area.
 
Beijing argues that its rights to the waters date back 2,000 years but the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, Japan and the USA all disagree. Some on the basis of sovereignty, others over the potential for energy reserves and the latter on the free passage of ships through international sea lanes.
 
Earlier this year the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague added its weight, ruling that what China now calls islands are in fact - rocks.