China’s ‘most powerful’ aircraft carrier group with record number of destroyers flexes muscles in western Pacific

On December 16, the Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning, escorted by a record number of Type 055 destroyers, sailed through the Miyako Strait and arrived in the western Pacific for routine operations, the state-run Global Times reported.

The PLA flotilla, which Chinese state media acclaimed As Liaoning’s most formidable aircraft carrier group to date, it is anticipated to host a series of realistic military training exercises beyond the first island chain.

These training sessions will enhance their ability to protect national sovereignty, territorial integrity and development interests, the Global Times added.

in a press release issued On Friday, the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Japanese Ministry of Defense reported that it had sighted a PLA Navy flotilla consisting of the aircraft carrier Liaoning, the Type 055 large destroyers Anshan and Wuxi, the Type 052D destroyer Chengdu, the Type 054A frigate Zaozhuang and the Type 901 integral replenishment ship Hulunhu.

The ministry mentioned that the PLA flotilla sailed from the East China Sea through the Miyako Strait to the Western Pacific on December 15 and 16.

The picture shows the aircraft carrier Liaoning (Hull 16) and other ships and combat aircraft at the sea parade held by the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy in the South China Sea on the morning of April 12, 2018. .Photo: Chinese military
The picture shows the aircraft carrier Liaoning (Hull 16) and other ships and combat aircraft at the sea parade held by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy in the South China Sea on the morning of April 12, 2018. .Photo: China Military

Prior to this, from December 12 to 15, Japan also stated that the Type 055 large destroyer Lhasa, the Type 052D destroyer Kaifeng, and the Type 903A replenishment ship Taihu had traveled from the East China Sea through the Osumi Strait to the Western Pacific.

At the same time, the Sovremenny Taizhou-class destroyer and a PLA Navy electronic reconnaissance ship hull number 796 left the East China Sea and entered the Western Pacific through the Miyako Strait.

It is unknown if the vessels mentioned above are part of the aircraft carrier group. However, Chinese analysts suggested that the unprecedented number of large Type 055-class destroyers may indicate that this is the most powerful formation of the Liaoning carrier group to date.

There used to be only one Type 055 in the group, but currently, there are three such ships in the formation.

Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times that the Liaoning aircraft carrier group is reportedly taking part in a normal training exercise during which the group’s warships would conduct coordinated maneuvers and combined operations. , as well as carrier-based fighter jet takeoffs. and landings.

The Liaoning aircraft carrier group may also include nuclear-powered submarines, according to Song, who argued that large Type 055 destroyers make the best escorts for Chinese aircraft carriers.

Tokyo adoption of a new national security strategy

Song noted that “exercises like this have already become normal and regular.” In May 2022, the Liaoning Aircraft Carrier Group done a mock far sea in the western Pacific east of Taiwan and south of Japan.

At the time, the deployment was the longest and most intensive training of the Chinese aircraft carrier in the area, with more than 300 aircraft sorties over nearly 20 days.

However, the Liaoning carrier group passed through the Miyako Strait on December 16, which also happened to be the day Japan adopted a national security strategy.

Under the new defense policy, the country plans to acquire cruise missiles and preemptive strike capability in a matter of years to take a more offensive position against “threats” from China.

Song added that the PLA must increase its combat readiness to handle any emergency as Japan continues to try to modify its defense plans and increase the size of its armed forces.

“Our exercises are not directed at any third party, but if a third party poses a threat to China, then they should feel that the exercises are directed at them,” Song added.

The image of Liaoning with a full load of J-15 fighters on social media

Meanwhile, Japan’s review of important security documents, which will serve as the basis for its defense strategies for years to come, has been hailed by the United States as a “bold and historic step.”

According to US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, the Pentagon supports Tokyo’s decision to acquire new capabilities that bolster regional deterrence, such as a counterattack capability. He also noted that the updated documents showed a significant convergence of the two allies’ priorities and visions outlined in their security strategies.

Japan’s updated strategic documents also showed a new, tougher stance toward China, which is still showing its military might near Japan’s southwestern islands, some of which are only 120 kilometers from Taiwan.

China has promised to annex Taiwan. Beijing has increased its military pressure on the democratic island in recent years, among other things, by holding military training exercises nearby.

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