- China’s first domestically built aircraft carrier was commissioned last year and is now heading to training exercises in the Bohai Sea.
- The Chinese military has stepped up its training in recent months amid ongoing tensions with the US, with ongoing exercises in the Yellow and Bohai Seas and recently concluded naval drills in the South and East China Seas.
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China’s newest aircraft carrier, the Shandong, has left the shipyard for a drill, local media reported on Tuesday.
The Kuznetsov-class carrier was filmed being towed from the harbour in Dalian in the northeastern province of Liaoning and heading out to the Bohai Sea, the Haike News, a social media account run by the overseas edition of People’s Daily reported. J-15 fighter jets and a Z-18 helicopter were also seen on deck.
The Shandong entered service on December 17 last year in Sanya, a port on the southern island of Hainan, but is not yet combat-ready.
The maritime authorities in Liaoning on Monday announced a no-entry zone for civilian vessels in the Bohai Sea off the coast of Leting county in Hebei, effective for three weeks from Tuesday because of “military missions.”
It is believed that this is the area where Shandong will carry out an aerial training session.
The ship has been assigned to the Chinese navy’s South Sea Fleet based in Sanya but has mostly remained in the northeast, with the crew confined to the ship at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Its first exercise this year was a 23-day drill in the Bohai and Yellow seas in May and June.
Its predecessor, China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, took six years to reach full capacity after delivery in 2012.
Separate PLA drills are currently taking place in the Yellow and Bohai seas as part of an ongoing series of exercises amid mounting tension with the US. The navy also recently finished naval drills in the South and East China Seas.
Another exercise saw a US spy plane entering a no-fly zone, prompting protests from China.
The US Navy has also carried out a series of exercises in the region in the past two months, including a carrier group exercises, a joint drill with the Japanese and transits through the Taiwan Strait. China last week fired a number of anti-ship missiles into an area of the South China Sea where the US carrier drills had been conducted.