China’s aircraft carrier pilots complete first night missions
Video shows J-15 fighter jets shown taking off and landing in the darkness, their afterburners glowing
Chinese navy pilots aboard the country’s sole operating aircraft carrier have completed their first nighttime take-offs and landings, state media reported on Friday.
The missions were hailed as a major step forward in the combat ability of the Liaoning, which was bought as a mostly empty hull from Ukraine and commissioned in 2012 along with its flight wing.
In a video released late on Thursday, J-15 fighter jets were shown taking off and landing in the darkness, their afterburners glowing. Nighttime missions on aircraft carriers are considered far more difficult and dangerous than those in the daytime.
Beijing said this month that its second carrier, the first built entirely in China, had completed five days of sea trials.
Both carriers are based on the former Soviet Union’s Kuznetsov class design, with a ski jump-style deck for take-off and a conventional oil-fuelled steam turbine power plant.
China is seen as striving to overtake the United States as the dominant naval power in Asia and already boasts the world’s largest navy in terms of number of vessels.
Beijing said aircraft carriers are needed to protect its coastline and trade routes, although they are also seen as backing up its claims to self-governing Taiwan and virtually the entire South China Sea.