China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, started blue water drills on Saturday, heading towards the West Pacific with a carrier task group.
Chinese state media reported that this was the carrier’s first “distant seas” deployment.
According to China’s Xinhua news agency, the Liaoning and other ships from the formation held a live-fire drill in the Bohai Sea on December 24. The drills also included carrier-based J-15 fighter jets.
Liaoning’s task group is composed of three guided missile destroyers and two frigates.
According to a report from Reuters, Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force spotted the Chinese ships entering the Western Pacific Ocean between Okinawa and Miyakojima Island. According to the report, this is the first time the Liaoning has entered the Pacific Ocean.
The carrier conducted live-fire drills for the first time ever earlier this month.
Liaoning is China’s only aircraft carrier, purchased from Ukraine in 1998 after the break-up of the Soviet Union. The carrier was purchased for $20 million and later refitted by the Chinese CSIC Dalian Shipyard. It was commissioned into the navy in 2012.
Chinese military officials confirmed in January this year that the country is building its second aircraft carrier. The new carrier will be powered by a conventional power plant built entirely domestically, using domestic technology and flying the Chinese J-15 fighter jets.