Carrier lined up for 'simulated' landing by jets
The mainland's first aircraft carrier was expected to host the 'simulated' landing of a jet fighter yesterday, the fourth day of its five-day maiden voyage, according to state media.
A navigation ban and a radio control notice were put in place yesterday by the Liaoning Maritime Safety Administration covering an area of the northeast Bohai Sea 17 nautical miles in radius from the shipyard where the carrier normally docks, the Global Times newspaper reported. The landing trials would go ahead if the weather allowed, it said.
Jet fighters were expected to approach the carrier, the Varyag, and then ascend without actually touching down on the flight deck, a source told the newspaper.
The jets used in the drills were said to be J-15s, a heavy fighter dubbed the PLA navy's 'Flying Shark'.
The source said the drills were intended to test the radar and optical landing systems of the 300-metre former Soviet vessel, which China bought in an unfinished state from Ukraine in 1998.
There was no official confirmation of whether trials had taken place as we went to press.
The Global Times quoted Xu Yongling, a former J-10 fighter test pilot, as saying it was extremely unlikely that actual landing drills would take place as the ship was not yet ready for such exercises. 'Neither the crew nor the equipment are ready for it,' he said, adding that it would take at least two months before flight trials could take place.
The carrier set sail on its long-awaited maiden voyage from its shipyard in Dalian, Liaoning province, last Wednesday, in what was seen as a milestone in China's ambition of developing a blue-water navy.
The voyage is the first of an expected series of sea trials to be conducted before the aircraft carrier is commissioned.
Kurt Campbell, the US assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific Affairs, said on Friday that the Varyag's maiden voyage was a significant step for China's military and would pose a challenge to the US and other countries in the region.
'The key is going to be whether our two countries, the United States and China, can learn to live together in peace,' he said, adding: 'China, I think, is wary about seeking to overtly challenge the United States's dominant position in Asia.'
China Newsweek magazine reported that as awareness grows of the economic and strategic significance of the oceans to China's east, some are questioning the decades-old policy of 'shelving disputes' and co-developing resources with other nations. It did not elaborate further.