Chinese carrier marks naval aviation milestone

China's first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning. Picture: AP
China's first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning. Picture: AP
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CHINA has carried out its first successful landing of a fighter jet on its first aircraft carrier, state media said yesterday, a symbolically significant development as Asian neighbours fret about the world’s most populous country’s military ambitions.

The Shenyang J-15 fighter took off from and landed on the Liaoning, a reconditioned Soviet-era vessel from Ukraine which entered service in September.

China ushered in a new generation of leaders this month at the 18th Communist Party Congress in Beijing, with outgoing president Hu Jintao making a pointed reference to strengthening China’s naval forces, protecting maritime interests and the need to “win local war”.

China is embroiled in disputes with the Philippines and Vietnam over South China Sea islands believed to be surrounded by waters rich in natural gas. It has a similar dispute with Japan over islands in the East China Sea.

It has also warned the United States, with president Barack Obama’s “pivot” to Asia, not to get involved.

China has advertised its long-term military ambitions with shows of new hardware, including its first test flight of a stealth fighter jet in early 2011, an elite helicopter unit and the launch of the aircraft carrier.

China is boosting military spending by 11.2 per cent this year, bringing official outlays on the People’s Liberation Army to 670.3 billion yuan (£68bn) for 2012, after a 12.7 per cent increase last year and a near-unbroken string of double-digit rises across two decades.