China Trains on its First Aircraft Carrier

Chinese aircraft carrier, Liaoning / AP

Chinese aircraft carrier, Liaoning / AP


Photographs released Monday document flight training exercises on China’s first aircraft carrier, the New York Times reports.

Chinese navy pilots are using J-15 fighter-bombers to practice a maneuver, “in which the plane makes brief contact with the flight deck before flying on.”

The exercises are the latest move to provide a combat capability for the carrier, which was launched last month without aircraft or an accompanying battle group. The next step would be the launching and recovery of aircraft, a much trickier process that may be years away.

Chinese-produced Z-8 helicopters have also been practicing take-offs and landings on the carrier. Both aircraft are based on Russian and French designs. Chinese pilots are believed to have been practicing carrier operations on mock flight decks located inland. …

The carrier’s launch underscores China’s ambitions to be a leading Asian naval power amid sharpening conflicts with its neighbors over disputed island chains in the South China and East China Seas.

The carrier, formerly the Russian navy’s Varyag, was adopted in 1998 and renamed the Liaoning. After years of restoration, the ship began sea trials in August 2011.

According to NYT, the “Liaoning has also been portrayed as a kind of test platform for the future development of domestically built Chinese carriers.”