China has conducted the first landing of a fighter jet on its new aircraft carrier in a move that extends Beijing’s ability to project its growing military might in territorial disputes.
The Chinese-made J-15 made a successful landing on the -Liaoning, a former Soviet carrier, during recent exercises, the defense ministry said in a report yesterday on the flight tests.
The Liaoning went into service in September in a symbolic milestone for China’s growing military muscle that comes at a time when Beijing is increasingly embroiled in a series of territorial disputes with its neighbors.
“The successful landing ... has always been seen as a symbol of the operating combat capability for an aircraft carrier,” a vice director at the military’s Naval Affairs Research Institute told state television. “This is a landmark event for China’s aircraft carrier ... and [moves it] one step closer to combat readiness.”
Video carried by China Central Television showed a tail hook on the rear of the J-15 catching hold of a cable on the deck of the aircraft carrier as the jet landed and slowed to a halt.
China had not previously announced that its navy possessed such highly technical cable landing technology.
The J-15 had also successfully taken off from the aircraft, the ministry said.
The J-15 is a Chinese-designed multi-purpose carrier-borne fighter jet based on Russia’s Sukoi 33, equipped with Russian engines and capable of carrying precision-guided bombs, press reports said.
Since the carrier entered service, the crew have completed more than 100 training and test programs, the ministry said.
China bought the stripped-down 300m carrier from Ukraine nearly 10 years ago and refurbished it at the northeastern port of Dalian.
Construction of the vessel, formerly known as the Varyag, was commissioned by the former Soviet Union more than 20 years ago, but work halted with the sudden collapse of the Soviet bloc.
The Liaoning — named after the northeastern province which includes Dalian — is not expected to be fully operational for another three years at least.
Over the past year, China has become increasingly assertive over its longtime maritime territorial claims as its economic and military power have expanded, causing rising anxiety among its neighbors.
At a key Chinese Communist Party congress earlier this month, outgoing Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) urged the nation to push forward fast-paced military modernization and set the goal of becoming a “maritime power.”
A top Taiwanese intelligence official said earlier this year that China had already decided to build two new aircraft carriers. However, despite rumors that work has already begun, there is no evidence it has started.