China holds training sessions for aircraft carrier fighter jets amid epidemic

The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy recently held training sessions for aircraft carrier-based fighter jets and helicopters in the Bohai Bay area, and experts said on Monday the training was crucial in boosting the combat capability of aircraft carriers, including China's second one, the recently commissioned Shandong.

China holds training sessions for aircraft carrier fighter jets amid epidemic 925 004 A J-15 takes off from the Liaoning PhotoA J-15 takes off from the Liaoning Photo (Picture source: PLA)

As the PLA makes routine and concrete steps in military development as planned, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has broken out in the military of the island of Taiwan in addition to the US military in the Asia-Pacific region.

J-15 aircraft carrier-based fighter jets recently conducted a buddy refuelling exercise in the Bohai Bay, China Central Television (CCTV) reported on Sunday.

Buddy refuelling means that a J-15 equipped with a refuelling pod, instead of a dedicated aerial tanker that cannot operate on an aircraft carrier, feeds other J-15s, enabling them to extend endurance in the air and carry more weapons and less fuel when taking off from the carrier, which is an often-used method also by foreign navies.

After finishing buddy refuelling, the J-15s were split into two teams and conducted mock battles of dogfights, aerial interceptions, and sea attacks, CCTV reported, noting that the fighter jets then engaged in night sorties.

Beijing-based naval expert Li Jie told the Global Times on Monday that fighter jets are the key weapons of an aircraft carrier, and their combat capabilities are crucial to the aircraft carrier task group, so it is important to enhance their training level.

With the commissioning of the Shandong, China's second aircraft carrier, in December 2019, more carrier-based fighter jets need to be built and more pilots trained, and these training courses will generate and boost their combat capability, Li said.

China's first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, has been in the South China Sea for exercises after it sailed through the Miyako Strait on April 10. This could suggest that the recent fighter jet training in the Bohai Bay was meant for the Shandong, Li said.

Aircraft carriers are not the only Chinese naval units holding exercises. The PLA Eastern Theater Command recently conducted live-fire drills in the East China Sea featuring a group of landing ships, according to a statement the PLA East China Sea Fleet released on Sunday.

The exercises came at a time when the COVID-19 reportedly hit four US aircraft carriers including two in the Asia-Pacific region and the military on the island of Taiwan. Media on the Taiwan island claimed the COVID-19 may give the PLA a good chance to reunify Taiwan by force.

Chinese mainland analysts said that the PLA exercises are routine and are aimed at honing their own capabilities, and the PLA has no intention of taking advantage of the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Taiwan secessionists should always fear the PLA, not just during the pandemic because the PLA is always determined and capable of safeguarding national sovereignty and territorial integrity, analysts said.