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Two J-15 fighters about to launch from the desk of the Liaoning during the drill. Photo: AFP

China’s Liaoning aircraft carrier conducts first live-fire drill as Beijing shows off military might

CCTV’s broadcast is also the first time J-15 fighters are shown launching missiles

Violet Law

China’s first aircraft carrier has for the first time taken part in a live-fire drill, which included the launch of several missiles as Beijing showed off its military might.

Footage of the military exercise – which involved the Liaoning carrier and dozens of other ships and aircraft in the Bohai Sea – was broadcast by state-run China Central Television on Thursday night.

During the drill, the Liaoning and several destroyers carried out tasks including an air interception, a sea assault, and anti-air and anti-missile exercises, aided by ­J-15 carrier-borne fighters. According to CCTV, the ­J-15s launched several missiles, which all hit their targets.

Thursday’s broadcast was also the first time that a live-fire drill with the J-15s had been shown to the public.

During the drill, missiles were launched from the Liaoning’s ship-to-air missile system while the J-15 launched air-to-air and air-to-ship missiles.

The Liaoning and several destroyers in formation also carried out a series of tasks including air interception, sea assault and anti-air and anti-missile exercises, aided by J-15 carrier-borne fighter jets. The J-15s were shown in the footage launching several missiles.

“Through this exercise, our confidence in the weaponry and the entire system was boosted,” said Xu Ying, the commander of the navy’s J-15 squadron.

Commissioned in 2012, the Liaoning, named after the northeastern province where it is berthed, was imported from Ukraine in 1998 in a covert operation involving Hong Kong-based tycoon Xu Zengping, a People’s Liberation Army veteran.

A J-15 fighter jet starts its take off from the Liaoning aircraft carrier during the live-fire drill. Photo: AFP
Missiles are fired from the Liaoning aircraft carrier during its first live-fire drill. Photo: AFP
A J-15 fighter jet fires a missile during the drill. Photo:

The carrier was declared combat ready only last month after nearly four years of sea trials as a training platform.

Last month, CCTV ran video clips of the Liaoning that showed the aircraft carrier is still using its original Russian-designed propulsion system, including eight boilers and 1970s-era Russian ­TB-12 engines.

The state-owned China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation spent nearly a decade refitting the carrier.

With the experience gained from refurbishing the Liaoning, China is building its first domestically made aircraft carrier, a larger Type 001A vessel.

The displacement of the Liaoning is between 50,000 and 60,000 tonnes, while the 001A type is bigger, with a maximum displacement of 70,000 tonnes.

It is also to be powered by steam turbines modified from the TB-12, according to Macau-based military observer Antony Wong Dong.

As China’s first-ever carrier, the Liaoning is freighted with the symbolic significance that China has arrived as a military power.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: PLA flexes muscle with carrier’s first live-fire exercise