South China Sea: Beijing showcases major new aircraft carrier in dramatic live-fire drills

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The footage was shared by China Central Television this week. Analysts say the ship has now achieved “basic fighting capacity” after being commissioned late last year. One Chinese military commentator said the ship could be used as a deterrent to ‘gangsters’ in the South China Sea.

The video shows the Shandong, also called Type 002, involved in military training as fighter jets take off and land on the huge vessel.

Thought to weigh around 55,000 tons, the ship measures just over 1,000 feet in length.

It can carry as many as 44 aircraft for the PLA’s air force, including fighter jets and helicopters.

Altogether, the ship can require more than 2,500 sailors to keep it operational, according to military news site Navy Recognition.

This week’s training video also showed the Shandong conducting live-fire exercises.

Li Jie, a military expert based in China, told the country’s state news outlet Global Times the ship appeared to have made quick progress in in training.

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They claimed: “In general, it takes one to two years for a new aircraft carrier to form basic fighting capacity, but the Shandong achieved this in less than one year, even though China had only one aircraft carrier and limited experience.”

The expert added the ship still needed to continue practicing for combat readiness.

However, they said the Shandong could be used as an “effective deterrent” in the South China Sea, noting the US, Japan, and Australia had conducted naval exercises in the region this month.

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The commentator added: “This will deter the gangsters effectively.”

The Global Times said China’s J-15 fighter jet forms “the most important component” of the Shandong’s combat abilities.

In addition, the ship is believed to be armed with short-range HQ-10 missiles, a seven-barrelled 30mm gun with a 3km range, and more.

The Shandong is China’s second aircraft carrier after its sister ship the Liaoning.

This month marked the fifth time this year in which Australia, Japan, and the US conducted joint military operations in the 7th Fleet area of operations.

The US Navy said in a statement: “Throughout the naval exercises, participants trained together and conducted trilateral operations designed to increase the allies’ collective ability to maintain maritime security and readiness to respond to any regional contingency.

“Professional engagement and cooperation with allies and partners is the foundation of regional stability, which fosters peace and prosperity for all nations.”

Captain Yokota Kazushi, commander of Japan’s escort division eight, said: “For the regional peace and stability, we are making efforts to maintain and develop a free and open Indo-Pacific. The iron bond with our partners is its foundation.

“Even though COVID-19 spreads, the JMSDF continues to strengthen the relationship with our ally partners.”

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