China's Shandong Aircraft carrier, expected to achieve initial combat capability by year-end, headed out Tuesday for combat drills with full-scale models of J-15 jet and a Z-8 helicopter.
Shandong departed Dalian Shipyard to take part in the drills, on September 1. The exercises will be held at Bohai Sea in the next 22 days.
“Two combat-ready aircraft carriers will have strategic significance for China to resist military pressure from countries like the US in the Taiwan Straits and the South China Sea, and potentially from India on China's key maritime transport lanes,” Chinese media reported today citing military experts.
“A pair of aircraft carriers can squeeze the island of Taiwan from different angles. Together with the DF-21D and DF-26 anti-ship ballistic missiles of the PLA Rocket Force, they can lock down the island and deny possible US intervention,” Beijing-based naval expert Li Jie told the Global Times on Tuesday.
China had been producing new J-15 aircraft carrier-based jets and training new pilots for the Shandong in recent years. This voyage could see the carrier integrated with those capabilities as a crucial part of its combat preparedness.
In February, Shenyang Aircraft Co, subsidiary of state-owned AVIC, published photographs hinting at accelerated production of jets. These aircraft were being coated with anti-corrosive green paint, and not yellow as before.
“The Shandong will conduct another training session, which will eventually give it the basis for initial combat capability,” Li Jie noted.
The Shandong was commissioned into the PLA Navy on December 17, 2019 in Sanya, South China's Hainan Province and it returned to the Dalian Shipyard later that month. This is the second time since then that it has embarked on a training voyage. The first time was in the Yellow Sea and Bohai Bay between May 25 and June 17, lasting 23 days, wenweipo.com reported.