China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, has returned to its home port after its longest sea trial to date, during which over 100 sorties with its Shenyang J-15 fighters took place.
In a statement on its web site, China’s defence ministry announced what appears to be rapid progress in flight testing with the ship, which it has designated as a platform for researching carrier operations.
“During the tests, the ship-borne J-15 fighters made 100-odd sorties in all, conducting the tests of such subjects as taking-off with maximum payload along the long and short runways on the aircraft carrier, arresting-cable-controlled landing with maximum payload, and multi-weapon configuration take-off and landing.”
In addition, the warship appears to have recovered and launched aircraft at short intervals, suggesting the navy is exploring techniques and procedures for rapid sortie generation.
This was the ship’s longest duration sea trial since its maiden voyage in October 2012. The Liaoning was previously the Soviet-era carrier Varyag, which China has refurbished.
Beijing’s carrier ambitions were ambiguous until late last year, when the Liaoning became the first Chinese warship to operate fixed-wing aircraft. Since then senior officials have become increasingly vocal about plans to develop more, and larger, carriers.
Chinese defence enthusiast websites have published images allegedly taken in a Chinese shipyard that purport to show a hull section of a future aircraft carrier.
In July, China announced that it had certified its first pilots and deck crew for aircraft carrier operations, following a 25-day training deployment of the Liaoning.
The certifications were awarded to five pilots and an unstated number of landing signal officers, after they were tested on skills related to the operation of fixed-wing aircraft from a warship.