CNS Liaoning leads live-fire drill
China recently carried out the first live-fire exercise for its aircraft carrier battle group in the Bohai Sea, the People's Liberation Army Navy said on Thursday night.
Dozens of ships and aircraft from the CNS Liaoning carrier battle group and the North Sea Fleet took part in the massive exercise. They fired more than 10 air-to-air, anti-ship and air defense missiles, the PLA Navy said in a statement. It did not disclose the exact time of the exercise.
The Liaoning performed various drills with several destroyers and frigates, involving scenarios such as reconnaissance, aircraft interception, sea strikes as well as missile defense. Multiple groups of J-15 carrier-borne fighter jets used air-to-air and anti-ship missiles to hit targets during the exercise, according to the Navy.
The statement also quoted chiefs of the Navy's training bureau as saying that the event was planned as part of the aircraft carrier's training schedule and aimed at verifying capabilities of personnel and weapons.
Videos of the Liaoning's J-15 fighters firing missiles were broadcast on China Central Television, the first time images of J-15 live-fire exercises have been shown to the public.
Rear Admiral Chen Yueqi, commander of the Liaoning carrier battle group, said the exercise is a "milestone" for the unit.
"It enabled us to explore how to organize a carrier battle group exercise and to test the training levels of our sailors and pilots. It can also boost the battle group's efforts to become combat ready as early as possible," he told CCTV.
Commander Xu Ying, chief of a J-15 squadron that participated in the event, was quoted by the State broadcaster as saying that through the exercise, pilots improved their use of tactics and weapons and enhanced confidence in their equipment.
Though the Navy did not disclose components of the carrier battle group, Zhang Junshe, a senior researcher at the PLA Naval Military Studies Research Institute, told China Daily that he thinks the battle group would have three Type 052C or Type 052D destroyers, both of which have advanced vertical-launch missile systems and cutting-edge air defense radar, three Type 054A frigates, one replenishment ship and one attack submarine.
"The recent exercise is really a landmark for the carrier battle group because it means the group's ships and aircraft have achieved a high level of integration and cooperation and that the unit is closer to gaining combat readiness," Zhang said. "Next, the group would focus on honing its air defense and counter-submarine capabilities."
Wu Peixin, an aviation industry observer in Beijing, said the news indicates that the J-15 fighter force has obtained initial operational capability.
"The J-15 is as mighty as the United States' F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. It is capable of carrying out multiple operations such as fleet air defense and anti-ship strikes," he said.
The Liaoning was commissioned in the PLA Navy in September 2012 in Dalian, Liaoning province. Its battle group took shape in December 2013, when the carrier and several escort vessels, including two guided missile destroyers, two guided missile frigates and an attack submarine took part in a long-range formation drill in the South China Sea.