Liaoning aircraft carrier

China's Liaoning aircraft carrier completes test-landing of jets

J-15 fighters and crew on board Liaoning have completed more than 100 exercises in recent months

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 November, 2012, 1:29pm

The People's Liberation Army had successfully conducted the first landing tests of the J-15 fighter jet on its sole aircraft carrier, Xinhua said yesterday.

The Chinese-made J-15 fighter landed on the Liaoning carrier, formerly known as the Varyag, during recent exercises, it said. The ship's crew had completed more than 100 tests and training exercises since the vessel was formally commissioned to the navy on September 25, it said.

China's first batch of carrier-based jet pilots and onboard flight commanders had grown familiar with technologies involved in the tests, Xinhua said. It was not clear how many jets were involved.

China Central Television aired a video clip showing the tail hook underneath a J-15 catching a cable on the carrier's deck as the jet landed, slowing the aircraft to a halt. Xinhua also released more than a dozen pictures of take-off and landing tests.

Mainland military websites said last week that the tests took place around Tuesday, during the vessel's 19-day sea trial that kicked off in waters in the northwestern Bohai Sea on November 11. Unlike its US counterparts, which use a catapult-assisted take-off system, the Liaoning carrier uses a flight deck with a curved incline to launch jets from the ship.

Take-offs and landings have been the most challenging and dangerous parts of the tests.

The carrier was half-finished when a Macau-based businessman with a PLA background bought it from the Ukraine in 1998.

Li Xiaoyong, the deputy head of aviation for the Liaoning, said PLA members positioned on both sides of the flight deck were responsible for fixing the position and safety of the cables used to stop landing aircraft.

He said crew members assigned to help launch aircraft were at risk of being hurt by a plane's exhaust plume, which could be as hot as 2,000 degrees Celsius, and being blown off the deck into the sea.

Li said it was an "arduous and risky mission", but none of the crew lost confidence. "You know why?" he said. "Because every one of us serving on this carrier is a super soldier."

While the success of such tests are a crucial step in the Liaoning's development, it does not necessarily mean a carrier strike group will be established in the near future. Some military experts have suggested that China will need up to four or five years to build an aircraft carrier combat group of that size.

"There is still a long way for us to go to turn the carrier into a real combat-effective aircraft platform," Beijing-based naval expert Li Jie said last week. Training would be scheduled soon to improve teamwork skills and technical operations, he said.