China conducted test flights on its aircraft carrier for the first time since it entered into service two months ago in another show of its growing military might as tensions over maritime disputes in the region mount.
The Chinese-made J-15 fighter jets took off and landed on the Liaoning, a former Soviet carrier, the defense ministry said in a report Sunday.
“The successful landing … has always been seen as a symbol of the operating combat capability for an aircraft carrier,” Zhang Junshe, a vice director at the military’s Naval Affairs Research Institute, told China’s official Xinhua news agency.
“This is a landmark event for China’s aircraft carrier … and moves it one step closer to combat readiness”.
“Capabilities of the carrier platform and the J-15 have been tested, meeting all requirements and achieving good compatibility,” Xinhua reported.
China bought the 300-meter (990 foot) carrier from Ukraine in 1998 and refitted in Dalian in 2002. The J-15 are Chinese-designed multipurpose carrier-borne fighter jets, equipped with Russian engines and capable of carrying precision-guided bombs, press reports said.
Analysts believe that China is still far from possessing carriers and a full fleet of fighter jets that would allow it to expand its air force. This comes as Beijing becomes increasingly assertive in its claims over disputed territories in the South and East China Sea.