China’s first aircraft carrier group, formed around the carrier Liaoning , has reached initial operational capability (IOC), the Ministry of National Defense (MND) in Beijing announced on 31 May.
The exercises conducted by the carrier group have become more demanding and “the carrier formation’s comprehensive system of offence and defence has been effectively tested”, MND spokesperson Senior Colonel Ren Guoqiang told reporters during a press conference.
Although training and developing a cadre of pilots capable of operating the carrier-borne J-15s at sea has been a dominant activity since the commissioning of Liaoning , the carrier has also completed several exercises with its escort group.
According to the state-owned China Daily newspaper, Liaoning and its escorts headed into the South China Sea after taking part in the Fleet Review on 12 April, and “conducted a series of combat training operations, practising air defence, anti-ship and anti-submarine tactics, and strikes against land targets”.
Following these exercises, the carrier and its escort group sailed east of Taiwan and into the Western Pacific where they conducted further training, which “involved sophisticated situations in the air and on the water” and tested the commanders’ ability “to make decisions when faced with complicated circumstances”.
The group was monitored at the time by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF), which identified the escorts as being a Type 052D (Luyang III)-class destroyer, three Type 052C (Luyang II)-class destroyers, and two Type 054A (Jiangkai II)-class frigates.
In 2011 an MND spokesperson had said that Liaoning , which was commissioned into the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) in September 2012, would be used for “scientific research, experiment, and training”.
However, by November 2016 the state-owned Global Times newspaper reported that the ship was “combat ready” and had “real combat capacity”.
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