An aircraft carrier group led by China’s Shandong carrier is conducting a series of exercises in the South China Sea in its first known voyage of the year.
Senior Captain Gao Xiucheng, a spokesperson from the PLA Navy, said that the drill involving Shandong “is a regular series of exercises organized based on the annual work schedule, and is fully legitimate and legal.” He added that it will “contribute to boosting the service’s capability to safeguard China’s sovereignty, security and development interests as well as regional peace and stability.”
This is the first time the Shandong has embarked on exercises made aware to the general public in 2021, observers said.
As China’s second aircraft carrier which entered service in December 2019 and underwent further trials and training sessions in 2020, the Shandong is gaining furtherly enhanced combat capability, a Beijing-based military expert told the semi-official Global Times.
Since the Shandong is in a group, it could practice coordinating with other vessels including destroyers and frigates like in real combat, instead of acting alone and testing its own technical parameters like during trial phases, the expert said.
Liaoning, the country’s first carrier, also completed its combat training in the South China Sea recently.
The Liaoning carrier group recently conducted routine drills and training in waters around Taiwan and related waters in the South China Sea, Senior Colonel Wu Qian, a spokesperson at China’s Ministry of National Defense, said at a regular press conference last Thursday.
Having two aircraft carriers means the PLA Navy can deploy these large warships more often, according to the anonymous expert, who noted that when one undergoes maintenance, the other can take its place.
The recent, consecutive exercises by the Liaoning and the Shandong show that China’s aircraft carriers are actively training for combat preparedness in order to deal with any potential threat the country is facing, analysts said.