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New carrier needs time to be ready

Zhao Lei
Updated: Sep 26,2014 9:43 AM     China Daily

The People’s Liberation Army navy marked the second anniversary of the commissioning of the aircraft carrier CNS Liaoning on Sept 25, but experts said more time is needed to hone its combat readiness.

The CNS Liaoning, a refitted Soviet-era carrier, was commissioned in Dalian, Liaoning province, on Sept 25, 2012.

The ship has engaged in research and training missions, and it continues to sail the oceans, PLA Daily said on its micro blog.

“We must be able to protect our territorial waters and win possible conflicts,” Senior Captain Mei Wen, political commissar of the carrier, told the newspaper.

“While in the open seas, we must make sure that we are able to sail as far as we want and can safeguard our turf.

“We must be strong enough to maintain the nation’s overseas economic interests and strategic channels.”

The vessel has just completed its first maintenance stop at a Dalian shipyard, a process that lasted five months from mid-April, according to an earlier report.

The crew and pilots of the carrier-based J-15 fighter jets have been put through a succession of rigorous training programs and tests over the past two years.

The vessel’s largest mission took place in December in the South China Sea. During a 37-day exercise, the carrier conducted more than 100 drills and training procedures designed to test the stress resistance of its structures, its sailing speed in deep water, its navigational capabilities and the reliability of its weapons and equipment.

It also took part in a formation drill with other Chinese ships and submarines, a move many observers believe indicates that a carrier battle group has taken shape.

However, it will take years for the CNS Liaoning to achieve full combat capability, said Zhang Junshe, a senior researcher from the PLA Naval Military Studies Research Institute.

The crews of the carrier and the other vessels and submarines, as well as the pilots, will have to learn to work effectively with each other, and this is likely to be a slow process, he added.

“This is understandable as the navy designated the ship as a platform for research, testing and training. It must have spent most of the past two years testing systems, finding defects and coordinating operations with aircraft.

“In addition, the limited number of aircraft in the PLA navy that are suitable for carrier-based operations also restricts the ship’s training operations.”

Wang Ya’nan, deputy editor-in-chief of Aerospace Knowledge magazine, said: “The basic functions of the CNS Liaoning’s systems have been tested, so the next stage will focus on testing its combat capability and improving the pilots’ skills.

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