The Liaoning, China's first aircraft carrier, recently completed its sea trials in the disputed South China Sea, with the exercises allowing the People's Liberation Army Navy to gain more experience in operating a carrier battle group in the open sea, reports the state-run China News Service (CNS).
The carrier left its home port of Qingdao in eastern China's Shandong province on Nov. 26, staying at Sanya base in Hainan between Nov. 29 and Dec. 5 before beginning its voyage towards the South China Sea. On its way to the disputed waters, a PLA tank landing ship which served as one of Liaoning's escort ships encountered the USS Cowpens, a Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser in a near-collision incident when trying to stop the latter from monitoring Chinese carrier's movements.
Zhang Zheng, captain of the Liaoning, told CNS that the South China Sea trial was launched mainly for the PLA Navy to gain real experience of operating an aircraft carrier or a carrier battle group in international waters. It also provided an opportunity to see whether the Liaoning's structure is able to carry out long-range missions at such a great distance, while the capabilities of its communication, navigation, take-off and landing systems were also observed.
With support provided by other surface combat vessels and submarines of the PLA Navy, China's ability to form its first carrier battle group was also tested, according to Zhang, adding the exercises needed to take place before the completion of the country's first two domestically built aircraft carriers.http://www.wantchinatimes.com/news-subclass-cnt.aspx?cid=1101&MainCatID=11&id=20131224000004