Chinese aircraft carrier group Shandong carried out combat exercises in the South China Sea as the U.S. Nimitz Carrier Strike Group entered the waters Thursday amid rising tensions over Beijing’s aggressive posturing in the region.
Combat drills by the Chinese aircraft carrier group led by the Shandong simulated hostile aircraft attacks with J-15 fighter jets taking off from the Shandong and carrying out interception training, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy said in a statement Sunday, according to a Global Times report.
The U.S. Nimitz Carrier Strike Group entered into the South China Sea waters for the first time during the group’s 2022-2023 deployment Thursday. Two Chinese ships were tailing the U.S. group, an unidentified defense official told CNN.
During the exercises, the Chinese carrier group also practiced cross-service multidimensional attack and defense on the surface, in the air and underwater. With new J-15 pilots becoming certified for nighttime operations, the drills marked another big step toward forming a systematic combat capability, the PLA Navy reportedly said.
Meanwhile, the U.S. said the deployment of the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group in the South China Sea is part of the Navy’s routine operations in the Indo-Pacific. As part of the deployment, the Strike Group carries out maritime strike training, anti-submarine operations, integrated multi-domain and joint training between surface and air elements and flight operations with fixed and rotary wing aircraft.
“The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group has the capability to deliver integrated lethal and non-lethal effects from space to undersea, across every axis and every domain,” Rear Adm. Christopher Sweeney, commander of Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 11, said, as per a news release from the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet.
“Our Sailors’ tenacity and warfighting prowess are unmatched and a testimony to our country’s determination to work alongside our Allies and partners to maintain free and open seas.”
It was reported on Jan. 2 that the Chinese aircraft carrier Shandong carried out large-scale stimulation attacks on the U.S. Navy in the South China Sea, using bomber and fighter aircraft. In December 2022, China sent its older Liaoning aircraft carrier group close to the U.S. military base on Guam in a move that is seen as a warning to Washington over Taiwan.
“The Liaoning recently conducted drills in the West Pacific, and now the Shandong is practicing in the South China Sea. In the future, the two carriers might form a dual carrier group and train together,” Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times.
China has made notable progress in building its aircraft carrier fleet since the first one, the Liaoning, was commissioned in September 2012. The Shandong entered service with the PLA Navy in December 2019 and is expected to gain higher operational capability over time. Meanwhile, the country’s newest and most advanced aircraft carrier, the Fujian, is ready to start sea trials this year.
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