China holds first live-fire drills with aircraft carrier, warships

China said last month that its aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, was ready to engage in combat, marking a milestone for a navy that has invested heavily in its ability to project power far from China’s shores.

world Updated: Dec 16, 2016 13:46 IST
Reuters, Beijing
China,China Aircraft carrier,Live-fire exercise
A live-fire drill using an aircraft carrier is seen carried out in the Bohai sea, China on December 14.(Reuters)

China’s military has carried out its first ever live-fire drills using an aircraft carrier and fighters in the northeastern Bohai Sea close to Korea, state media said.

China’s growing military presence in the disputed South China Sea has fuelled concern, with the United States criticising its militarization of maritime outposts and holding regular air and naval patrols to ensure freedom of navigation.

No other country has claims in China’s busy waterway of the Bohai Sea, but the drills come amid new tension over self-ruled Taiwan, following US President-elect Donald Trump’s recent telephone call with the island’s president that upset Beijing.

A Chinese J-15 fighter jet preparing to take off from the deck of the Liaoning aircraft carrier during military drills in the Bohai Sea, off China's northeast coast. (AFP Photo)

Ten vessels and 10 aircraft engaged in air-to-air, air-to-sea and sea-to-air combat drills that featured guided missiles, state broadcaster Chinese Central Television reported late on Thursday.

“This is the first time an aircraft carrier squadron has performed drills with live ammunition and real troops,” it said.

China’s Soviet-built Liaoning aircraft carrier and a formation of warships carried out aerial interception, anti-aircraft and anti-missile drills, in which Shenyang J-15 fighter jets carrying live missiles also participated, CCTV said.

It broadcast images of fighter jets taking off from the carrier, firing missiles and destroying a target at sea.

Chinese J-15 fighter jets waiting on the deck of the Liaoning aircraft carrier. (AFP Photo)

The Liaoning has participated in previous military exercises, including some in the South China Sea, but the country is still years off from perfecting carrier operations similar to those the United States has practiced for decades.

A jet from China's aircraft carrier Liaoning is seen during live-ammunition drill recently in the waters of the Bohai Sea in northern China. (AP Photo)

On Wednesday, a US think tank said China had been installing anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems on artificial islands in the South China Sea, prompting China to defend its right to install military hardware there.

China’s exercises aim to test the equipment and troop training levels, an unidentified navy official told the official China News Service.

In this May 2012 file photo provided by China's Xinhua News Agency, Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning cruises for a test in the sea. (AP)

Last December the Defence Ministry confirmed China was building a second aircraft carrier to go with the existing vessel, but its launch date is unclear.

China keeps its aircraft carrier programme a state secret, and CCTV blurred images showing the cockpit instrument panel of one aircraft involved in the Bohai Sea drills.

Beijing could build multiple aircraft carriers over the next 15 years, the Pentagon said in a report last year.

China’s successful operation of the Liaoning is the first step in what state media and some military experts believe will be the deployment of domestically built carriers by 2020.

A pilot from China's aircraft carrier Liaoning is seen during live-ammunition drill recently in the waters of the Bohai Sea in northern China. (AP Photo)

First Published: Dec 16, 2016 12:27 IST