Prepare to Surface
Updated 16:51, 18-Apr-2019
Han Bin, Huang Xiaodong
04:41

To look at how the navy is preparing the next generation, we went to the PLA Navy Academy in the coastal city of Qingdao. It's the cradle of China's underwater force. We met a group of cadets, future submariners preparing for military service. We were allowed to film three training routines: diving for search and rescue, escape from a damaged submarine, and plugging.

Pushing to the limit

"After this training, I will better understand the inner feelings of crew members crawling through the tubes," says Qu Bin, PLA Navy Submarine Academy cadet.

Cadets from the PLA Naval Submarine Academy training for escape from a damaged submarine. They need to get through a duplicate torpedo tube. /CGTN Photo

Cadets from the PLA Naval Submarine Academy training for escape from a damaged submarine. They need to get through a duplicate torpedo tube. /CGTN Photo

It's his second year at the academy for the 21-year-old Qu. As a child, he dreamed serving on a submarine and following the troops to sea. Now he's learning the reality and the risks of that dream.

The escape drill requires cadets to pass through a duplicate torpedo tube. It's the only exit once a submarine fails to surface. The exercise is designed to push cadets to the limit. Their oxygen supply is limited, and they have to crawl their way forward. The exercises last only minutes. But the combination of darkness, cold water, and the deafening sound of the signal make it just about unbearable.

Training for the worst

Cadets from the PLA Navy Submarine Academy training in plugging to protect the submarine. /CGTN Photo

Cadets from the PLA Navy Submarine Academy training in plugging to protect the submarine. /CGTN Photo

"The actual damage could be more complicated than the training. In fact, the aim is not entirely to protect the lives of the crew, but mainly to protect the submarine," says Liu Xuefei, PLA Submarine Academy instructor.

Liu says students must strictly follow the operating procedures. That requires discipline and a cool head. Submarine accidents happen in many navies, including China's. The training is designed to prepare sailors for the worst-case scenario. And while training may be the toughest time of their young lives, the real ordeal comes after graduation.