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The Shandong, China’s first domestically made aircraft carrier, has been touted by military experts as ready to undergo basic operations to increase its combat effectiveness. Chinese state media outlets have broadcast footage of the ship carrying out live fire exercises, as well as taking part in fighter jet drills in the South China Sea. It comes as the US and other countries have begun carrying out naval drills to counter China’s aggressive military pushes in the disputed waters.
State broadcaster CCTV spotlights Shandong’s military drills and touted the carrier’s progress towards combat.
The ship was commissioned just last year on December 19th, and is the second aircraft carrier in the People’s Liberation Army after Lianoning.
It carried out training on the Bohai Sea from September 1 to September 23, focusing on actual combat in practice missions.
Now experts have declared the ship is ready for deployment after 10 months of testing in the PLA, with outlets suggesting it will first go to the South China Sea.
Li Jie, Beijing-based military expert, told state outlet Global Times the ship is proof China’s dual aircraft carrier strike group is no longer a concept.
Touting the speedy progress of the Shandong, he said: “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.
“This shows that the quality of the training is pretty good.”
On the release of the training video, Mr Li added the Shandong is ready to expand into wider maritime deployment and said: “This means that the Shandong has mastered the basic skills and is capable of navigating the world.”
China’s J-15 fighter jets were also touted by Mr Li as the most important component of the Shandong’s combat capacity, with the carrier never embarking on a mission without the jets.
He also revealed China deploys its aircraft carriers with a formation of air, surface and underwater forces to face threats.
The Global Times reported that because of the Shandong being commissioned in Sanya, it will serve in the PLA’s Southern Theatre Command.
The Southern Theatre Command is one of five commands of the PLA, and focuses on protecting Beijing’s claim to the South China Sea.
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It comes as the US, India, Japan and Australia have carried out military exercises in the contested waters.
The QUAD have sent warships to the South China Sea in order to carry out live fire drills as a warning to China.
Nitin Pai, Director of Indian think-tank the Takshashila Institution, said India’s participation was a warning to Beijing over their aggressive military pushes into contested territory.
Referencing India and China’s clashes in Ladakh he told the Financial Times “The message was: Don’t mess in my backyard or otherwise I’ll mess in yours.
“The security of the Himalayas lies east of the Malaccas. If you can’t solve the problem in the theatre you have, you have to enlarge the theatre.”
Mr Li told the Global Times the Shandong will be carrying out routine navigation exercises in the waters, in an effort to deter the QUAD.
The expert expressed hopes the Shandong will stabilise tensions in the South China Sea through the threat of conflict.
He added: “It is like a group of gangsters who break into our homes to make trouble, so we deploy some strong guards with knives at the door.
“This will deter the gangsters effectively.”
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