Sea Platforms

China's Liaoning carrier group ventures into West Pacific for first time

30 December 2016
The PLAN has deployed its Liaoning carrier group for the first time beyond the First Island Chain. Source: CCTV

China's People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has for the first time deployed its Liaoning carrier group beyond the First Island Chain.

The carrier group is thought to have commenced its transit into the West Pacific on 23 December and passed through the Miyako Strait south of the Japanese island of Okinawa on 25 December.

The progress of Liaoning and her supporting escorts was monitored by a frigate and Lockheed Martin P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) as well as by Taiwanese assets.

The PLAN ships sailed to the east of Taiwan and subsequently passed through the Bashi Channel to the north of the Philippines before heading west to port facilities on China's Hainan Island.

Photographs posted on Chinese online forums show that the carrier was berthed alongside at the naval base south of Sanya by 28th December.

During the transit Liaoning was accompanied by a Luyang III-class (Type 052D) destroyer ( Changsha ), two Luyang II-class (Type 052C) destroyers ( Zhengzhou and Haikou ) and two Jiangkai II-class (Type 054A) frigates ( Yantai and Linyi ).

Before crossing the First Island Chain a Jiangdao-class (Type 056) corvette and a Type 903A replenishment ship were also in company but these appear not to have passed through the Miyako Strait.

Photographs taken of aircraft on the flight deck of Liaoning prior to the transit showed that at least 13 Shenyang Aircraft Corporation J-15 fighters were embarked, as well as at least one Z-18 helicopter, though it is not clear whether this was an airborne early warning or an anti-submarine warfare variant.

The JMSDF reported that a Z-9C helicopter was monitored flying in the vicinity of Miyako Island but no other flying operations were reported. Photographs taken by a JMSDF P-3C showed no aircraft on the deck of Liaoning during the transit, although they were evident after arrival in Sanya.

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