Chinese Aircraft Carrier Shandong Transits Taiwan Strait, Heads to South China Sea for Training

Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy aircraft carrier Shandong (17) sailed through the Taiwan Strait and headed to the South China Sea for trans-regional maneuver training on Dec. 20.

Since the aircraft carrier Shandong entered service last year, it has completed the training tasks including carrier-based aircraft takeoff and landing, carrier-borne weapons operation, combat system commissioning, etc. The systematic combat capability of the carrier strike group has got continuous improvement.

The spokesperson stressed that the carrier strike group’s trans-regional maneuver training this time is a regular arrangement within the annual training plan, and Chinese navy will continue to organize such training activities according to the needs in the future.

The Shandong aircraft carrier, designated as Type 001A, is the PLA Navy’s second aircraft carrier after Type 001 Liaoning, a retrofitted Soviet-era Admiral Kuznetsov-class aircraft carrier. The design of the carrier, which is China’s first domestically-built aircraft carrier, is largely based on Liaoning.

The carrier measures about 315 meters (1,033 ft) long, with a displacement of about 55,000 tonnes (70,000 loaded).

Shandong is fitted with a ski-jump assisted Short Take-Off But Arrested Recovery (STOBAR) launch system, also installed aboard the Liaoning. She will be able to carry up to 24 Shenyang J-15 fighter jets, a variant of the Russian Sukhoi Su-33, as well as around ten helicopters including Changhe Z-18, Ka-31, or Harbin Z-9.

The carrier was constructed by the Dalian Shipbuilding Industry, part of the China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation, in Dalian, Liaoning province, China. The fabrication of the vessel started in November 2013. The ship was launched on 26 April 2017 and began her sea trials in 2018.

China also began construction of a third aircraft carrier, designated Type 002, at a Shanghai shipyard. This carrier will be equipped with a conventionally-powered catapult assisted take-off but arrested recovery (CATOBAR) aircraft launch system similar to the one used on U.S. Navy supercarriers. This system will enable the carrier to launch heavier jets such as Airborne Early Warning aircraft and also let the fighters takeoff with full payload of weapons and fuel.

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