China’s first indigenously-built aircraft carrier “Shandong” has completed regular testing and training missions at sea, the state media CCTV reported on Tuesday.
Shandong has been in sea trials since 2018 and has been undergoing extensive evaluation and weapons testing. It has still not achieved the Initial Operational Clearance (IOC), which its predecessor Liaoning only attained six years after commissioning, in 2018.
According to the reports, the testing and training included aviation support, damage control and emergency response. Senior Captain Lai Yijun, the ship’s commander, added that the crew focused on actual combat and have effectively tested the performance of the weapons on the ship.
“As the Shandong has just served for less than a year, it is still undergoing basic training to test the performance of its equipment and enhance research on the operations and training of the ship,” Zhang Junshe, a senior research fellow at the PLA Naval Military Studies Research Institute, told the state mouthpiece Global Times on Tuesday.
Earlier in August, tensions escalated in the region when an American U-2 spy plane flew over the Yellow Sea when Shandong was conducting live-fire drills and the area was declared a no-fly zone.
Shandong is the PLA-Navy’s second aircraft carrier after Liaoning and the first to be indigenously-built. She was initially designated as a Type 001A air carrier during development but was finalized as Type 002 at commissioning.
The carrier’s design is based heavily on the Liaoning and uses the conventional oil-fired boilers driving eight steam turbines derived from the Soviet-designed examples installed on the former.
It houses a fleet of Shenyang J-15 fighter jets, which are considered to be a spinoff of the Russian Su-33 deck-based fighter jets. However, the Russian Navy replaced its Su-33 fleet with the MiG-29K in 2009.
For the aerial operations, the carrier uses the traditional STOBAR (Short Take-Off But Arrested Recovery) configuration. The ski jump has an angle of 12.0° instead of the 14.0° on the Liaoning, which is considered ideal for launching the J-15 fighter.
The carrier was commissioned on 17 December 2019 at Sanya, Hainan by Central Military Commission Chairman Xi Jinping and was officially named Shandong. It measures about 315 metres (1,033 ft) long, with a displacement of about 55,000 tonnes (70,000 loaded).