China conducts first aircraft carrier live-fire drill

Beijing, Dec 16 (IANS) China has conducted the first-live fire exercise for its aircraft carrier in the Bohai Sea, a move which may ratchet up tensions in the disputed South China Sea.

Dozens of ships and aircraft from the CNS Liaoning carrier battle group and the North Sea Fleet took part in the massive exercise. They fired more than 10 air-to-air, anti-ship and air defence missiles, Chinese media said on Friday quoting a PLA Navy statement.

The time of the drill was not disclosed.

The Liaoning performed various drills with several destroyers and frigates, involving scenarios such as reconnaissance, aircraft interception, sea strikes as well as missile defence.

Multiple groups of J-15 carrier-borne fighter jets used air-to-air and anti-ship missiles to hit targets during the exercise, according to the navy.

The statement also quoted chiefs of the navy’s training bureau as saying that the event was planned as part of the aircraft carrier’s training schedule and aimed at verifying capabilities of personnel and weapons.

Videos of the Liaoning’s J-15 fighters firing missiles were telecast on China Central Television, the first time images of J-15 live-fire exercises have been shown to the public.

CNS Liaoning was commissioned in the PLA Navy in September 2012 in Dalian, Liaoning province. Its battle group took shape in December 2013, when the carrier and several escort vessels, including two guided missile destroyers, two guided missile frigates and an attack submarine took part in a long-range formation drill in the South China Sea.

The move is likely to rile the US which among other countries has contested China’s claim over the so-called Nine Dash Line — almost 80 per cent of the South China Sea.

Besides China, Brunei, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia also lay claims to the waters through which trade worth five million passes through every year.

In July, an international court invalidated China’s claims over waters, ruling in favour of the Philippines, which sought its arbitration in 2013.

Beijing has rejected the ruling as “illegal”.