China has been modernizing its navy for quite some time now. Reworked from an earlier Russian-made model, the Liaoning got ready for operations in December 2016. The 60,000-ton vessel was bought from Ukraine in 1998, and finally got commissioned to be completed in 2012.
On Christmas day, the Navy sent out the first carrier battle group through Miyako Strait, around Taiwan and finally conducting the drills in the South China Sea. The beast carried three Z-18 helicopters, eight J-15 fighters, three destroyers (two Type 052C and one Type 052D), two Type 054A frigates, Type 903A refueling ship, and a Type 056 corvette. During its journey, the carrier launched and recovered many aircraft.
The carrier was completed in four years by a Navy that has never even operated an aircraft carrier which made the building process a bit slower. The carrier also lacks the catapults like the US carriers. Thus, it launches the planes off a ‘ski jump’ deck which will reduce the fuel and weapon carrying capacity of the J-15 Flying shark, thus limiting their range and effectiveness in war. The carriers hold a massive arsenal of its own to accommodate for the reduced fighter weight-carrying capacity. Thus, the carrier is more apt for coastal defense when compared to the United States’ flat top carriers.
Officials say that the carrier will undergo a series of exercises for testing its systems and for planning a formation of the ships and the submarines which will move along. China is also in the process of building another carrier.
According to the analysis of the Liaoning carrier by China Power,
“Although its overall capability is hindered by its comparatively inefficient power plant and underpowered aircraft launching system, the Liaoning represents an important step in advancing China’s ability to project naval power.”
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