Chinese Carrier Strike Group Liaoning Returns From Deployment

December 31, 2021 1:57 PM - Updated: January 1, 2022 1:56 PM
Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning (16) refuels underway during a December 2021 deployment. PLAN Photo

The post has been updated to correct the type of fighters embarked aboard the PLAN carrier Liaoning. The fighters are J-15s not JF-17s.

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – The People’s Liberation Army Navy Liaoning carrier group returned to its homeport of Qingdao on Dec. 30 after a successful training deployment according to a PLAN official release. 

During the 20 days of training, the carrier group crossed the Yellow Sea, East China Sea and entered the Western Pacific via the Miyako Straits, conducting comprehensive exercises in various fields geared towards enhancing the carrier group formation concept, the release stated. The carrier group sailed towards the Yellow Sea on Dec. 9 where it conducted formation search and rescue and tactical flight and air handling of its embarked J-15 fighters and Z-9 and Z-18 helicopters. Take-off and landing training was carried out in both the day and the night.

A PLAN J-15 carrier fighter takes off from Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning (16) during a December 2021 deployment in the Western Pacific. PLAN Photo

The carrier group then proceeded to the Western Pacific where training was conducted on the group’s combat capabilities, including air and anti-submarine warfare training, command and control operations, replenishment exercises and force coordination. A PLAN-released photo showed Liaoning (16) conducting a replenishment exercise with a Type 901 replenishment ship.

While the PLAN release did not name the other ships in the carrier group, the Joint Staff Office of the Japan Self Defense Force stated that Liaoning, destroyer Nanchang (101), frigate Rizhao (598) and a Type 901 replenishment ship had been sighted in the area west of the Danjo Islands in the East China on Dec. 15, traveling southeast, then operating between Miyako Island and Okinawa on Dec. 16 and sailing southwards into the Pacific Ocean.

Russian and Chinese ships on Oct. 23 off the coast of Japan. JMSDF Image

Japan’s press releases stated that on Dec. 19 and Dec. 20 the four ships, together with the destroyer Xiamen (154) and an unidentified Type 54A Jiangkai II frigate, had been conducting activities including carrier flight operations. A Joint Staff Office statement issued Monday said the Liaoning carrier group including the Liaoning, Nanchang, Xiamen, Rizhao and the Type 901 replenishment ship was sighted Dec. 25 sailing northwest between Okinawa and Miyako Island toward the East China Sea.

Throughout the voyage, foreign warships and aircraft had repeatedly monitored, approached and tracked the carrier group, according to the PLAN release. It did not state which country the observing ships and aircraft were from, though the PLAN released a photo showing the JMSDF destroyer helicopter carrier JS Izumo (DDH-183) near

A People’s Liberation Army Navy J-15 carrier fighter takes off from Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning (16) during a December 2021 deployment. PLAN Photo

. The Japanese releases showed that Izumo monitored the Liaoning carrier group throughout its outbound passage from the East China Sea to the Western Pacific. Destroyer Akizuki (DD-115), P-1 maritime patrol aircraft of Fleet Air Wing 1 at Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Honshu and P-3 Orion MPAs of Fleet Air Wing 5 at Naha Air Base, Okinawa joined Izumo in monitoring the group. In addition, the Japanese releases stated that Japan Air Self Defense Force fighter aircraft were scrambled when Liaoning launched fighter aircraft and helicopters.

While the voyage and activities of the Liaoning carrier group were in compliance with international practices, the activities of the group close to Japan are likely to spark further concern over China’s military activities. In mid-October, after a joint naval exercise, the Russian Navy and PLAN ships conducted a joint sail in international waters east of Japan’s main island of Honshu before splitting off to their home ports, with both countries pledging to conduct further joint naval exercises.

Dzirhan Mahadzir

Dzirhan Mahadzir

Dzirhan Mahadzir is a freelance defense journalist and analyst based in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. Among the publications he has written for and currently writes for since 1998 includes Defence Review Asia, Jane’s Defence Weekly, Navy International, International Defence Review, Asian Defence Journal, Defence Helicopter, Asian Military Review and the Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter.

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