Shandong is China’s first domestic carrier based on the Liaoning aircraft carrier purchased from Ukraine. According to the Global Times On September 3, both carriers sailed to sea for training at the same time earlier this week, marking China’s unprecedented large carrier maneuvers.
Learning from the Liaoning ship, the Shandong ship has many improvements and is equipped with the new generation J-15 fighter aircraft. Leaked images online show the Shandong ship leaving the Dalian port on September 1 with a J-15 fighter model and a Z-8 helicopter on deck.
According to the Global Times This training, which will last until the end of September, will test the Shandong ship’s fighter integration capabilities. China is believed to have successfully developed a new paint that prevents aircraft carrier aircraft from corroding while operating at sea.
An “unnamed military expert” of this newspaper said the Shandong ships could go directly to Du Lam base on Hainan Island after finishing training. Another expert said that the ship would call at the Dalian port in Liaoning to make some adjustments before going to the South China Sea.
The Shandong aircraft carrier was entered into the Chinese navy during a solemn ceremony attended by Chinese President Xi Jinping last December. However, due to a lack of maintenance docks and fighter aircraft, the ship spends most of its time in Dalian port.
Li Jie, a Chinese naval expert, said that sending the Shandong ship to Hainan was to create a pincer position with the Taiwanese island and protect the Malacca Strait in case of need.
The US Department of Defense report on the Chinese military released earlier this week warned that China would increase its military presence in the South China Sea. The Pentagon also predicts that the Shandong aircraft carrier will be brought to Hainan, the term of the waters near Vietnam’s Hoang Sa archipelago.
According to the Pentagon, benefiting from illegally occupied entities in the South China Sea, China is aiming to increase its “expeditionary” capacity. Countries in the region are likely to soon see the growing emergence of Chinese aircraft carriers, anti-ship missiles, and Marines in disputed waters.
The report states that in the past year alone, the PLA has added at least six more brigades, bringing the total to eight at the present time. This force conducted many illegal exercises in the Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagos of Vietnam in the same year.
Even so, the Pentagon report also said that only two Chinese Marine brigades are suitably equipped and capable of protecting entities illegally occupied in the South China Sea.