China’s first aircraft carrier has become equipped with operational fighter jets, reports Want China Times.
Leaked photographs reportedly show four J-15 fighter jets being loaded onto the Liaoning – China’s only aircraft carrier. The aircraft carrier’s 180 metre long hangar will eventually be able to house 24 jets of a same size as the J-15, a fighter plane which can attain speeds of nearly 3,000 kilometres per hour and is equipped with four missiles.
Other reports indicate that the Liaoning recently conducted its first naval drills this year in Bohai Bay (North-East China) between April 10-18, mainly practising take-off and landing exercises.
The aircraft carrier was originally an unfinished version from the Soviet navy, which China purchased from Ukraine in 1998. It was delivered to China in 2002, and after 10 years of refurbishments at a Qingdao base—which forced the relocation of 3,600 villagers’ homes—it was officially commissioned by the PLA Navy in 2012.
Last month, two military base workers were jailed for espionage and selling state secrets after they had allegedly sent photos of the Liaoning to ‘foreign spies’.
In a classic case of Chinese lego grandeur, it took workers 180 days to construct a scale model aircraft carrier using 440,000 lego pieces. Fortunately, the replica is a true reflection of the real Liaoning, unlike an attempt by state-run media to show off the jewel in the navy’s crown – which rather embarrassingly published images from a ‘Battlestar Galactica’ fan site instead.
By Liam Bourke
Photos: Australian Popular Science