CARRIER SET FOR DRILLS
China’s one and only aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, set sail again recently to test a routine but important maneuver: aircraft takeoff from its deck and a completely stopped landing back on deck.
This step appears to be technically daunting for Chinese pilots. Since its commissioning in late September, China’s multitude of Internet users have roundly ridiculed the Liaoning for its inability to do what aircraft carriers are designed to do: launch and land attack aircraft.
The lack of pilot skills for the maneuver was not the only material amusing skeptics. For months, the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) navy could not even decide on the type of fixed-wing aircraft to be deployed with the Liaoning.
A widely speculated choice is China’s J-15 stealth fighter jet, which appears to be a knockoff version of Russia’s Sukhoi Su-33 that includes a few Chinese fighter features and avionics.
Three weeks ago, the Liaoning reportedly conducted touch-and-go maneuvers that involved jets conducting nonstop landings and takeoffs on the deck.
The stop-and-go maneuver is standard carrier-pilot training and requires far more than pilot skills and coordination with carrier deck crews. The reason: Landing jets must use arresting cables on the deck that catch an aircraft’s tail hook.
Reports from the region say China had been unable to produce the highly sophisticated arresting cables, which require precise strength and flexibility that enable skilled operators to apply the exact amount of tension on the cable during the landing maneuver.
If successful, stop-and-go maneuvers will mark a significant step forward in China’s carrier program. It’s something that has been done for decades by developed naval powers