China's first aircraft carrier 'combat ready'

BEIJING • China's first aircraft carrier has left its shipyard in Qingdao and is now ready to engage in combat, reported the Global Times, quoting the warship's political commissar.

"As a military force, we are always combat ready and our combat capacity also needs to be tested by war," Senior Captain Li Dongyou told the newspaper. "At this moment, we are doing our best to promote our strength and use it to prevent war. But we are preparing for actual combat at any time," he added.

His comments, and a selection of training photos displayed on official Chinese military websites, appeared to indicate that the warship had taken on its full accompaniment of aircraft, reported Japan Times. It was not clear when the pictures were taken.

"There are more than 1,000 non- commissioned officers on the Liaoning, and they are the main part of China's aircraft carrier. Among them, we have 42 Chief Petty Officers with an average age of 40 and experience of serving in the navy for more than 20 years," Senior Capt Li said.

The carrier has conducted drills in the South China Sea on a few occasions since it was commissioned in 2012. But so far it has been used mainly for training purposes rather than in any practical combat role.

The Global Times said three senior United States officers and military commanders have visited the Liaoning. They are Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel, and the 30th and the 31st Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert and Admiral John M. Richardson.

China is also in the process of constructing its first indigenously built carrier, which the Defence Ministry said late last month was proceeding smoothly, with the hull having already been assembled.

Beijing has been tight-lipped about the wholly home-made carrier's construction, though military observers said they expected the design of the new vessel to closely follow that of the Liaoning, reported the South China Morning Post.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 16, 2016, with the headline 'China's first aircraft carrier 'combat ready''. Print Edition | Subscribe