Liaoning aircraft carrier

China's Liaoning aircraft carrier set for sea trials of take-offs and landings

Liaoning's readiness for flight manoeuvres of jets will focus on return from sorties over 19 days of exercises in Bohai starting tomorrow

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 10 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 10 November, 2012, 7:40am

A 19-day sea trial of China's first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, starting tomorrow is expected to include take-offs and landings by fighter jets.

Earlier reports and photographs that were published by the People's Liberation Army Daily and the website of the Ministry of National Defence showed the ship had successfully completed touch-and-go tests involving a carrier-based fighter aircraft, which military experts said was probably an indigenous J-15, last month.

A navigation warning has been issued by the Liaoning Maritime Safety Administration, banning all civilian vessels from part of the northern Bohai Sea from 8am tomorrow to 6pm on November 30.

It said the area would be used for a military mission, hinting that the Liaoning was about to embark on its second sea trial after being officially commissioned into the PLA Navy in September, a news portal affiliated with Communist Party mouthpiece the People's Daily, said yesterday.

Li Jie , a naval expert who is based in Beijing, said the ship had achieved some success in test take-offs during the previous sea trial.

"This time, it will mainly focus on landings because, compared with take-offs, landing operations are much more challenging and dangerous," he said.

Li also said landing tests involved more cooperation and co-ordination between pilots and technicians aboard the carrier, with accurate judgment calls a must.

"Safety is still the top priority for our take-offs and landings," Li said. "Our final goal is turning our carrier and fighter jets into a perfect combination."

The Liaoning's previous sea trial, of 18 days, concluded at the end of last month.

One of the carrier's deputy chief designers, Wu Xiaoguang , told mainland media on Wednesday that the Liaoning was expected to complete take-off and landing drills by the end of this year - and maybe even as early as this month.

Wu also said the Liaoning was "just a start" for the country's carrier development.

The Liaoning was built using the hull of an unfinished Soviet-era carrier, the Varyag, which China acquired from Ukraine in 2002. The ship uses the original Russian-designed ski-jump ramp take-off system, but many military experts said future Chinese carriers would probably be equipped with magnetic or steam catapults.

Also this week, Shenyang Aircraft Industry, which is making the carrier-based J-15, successfully tested its second stealth fighter - a smaller, twin-engined jet that military analysts said could potentially fly missions from an aircraft carrier one day.

In-flight photos of the new fighter - dubbed the J-31 by military enthusiasts - were posted on Chinese military forums and picked up by many mainland media outlets.

The development makes China the second nation, after the United States, to successfully test two fifth-generation, advanced multirole fighters.