China forms first carrier-borne aviation force
Beijing: China on Friday announced the formation of its first aircraft carrier-borne aviation force, signalling its determination to enhance the reach of its fast-expanding navy's might. "A carrier-borne aviation force has been formally established as part of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy," the state-media reported.
The forming of the force, approved by the Central Military Commission (CMC), demonstrates that the development of China's aircraft carriers has entered a new phase, Xinhua news agency quoted military sources as saying.
Beijing's apparent determination to extend its control over the seas with a "blue-water force" comes at a time of increasingly acrimonious maritime disputes with neighbouring countries such as Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam.
China has also expressed public concern over the United States' "pivot" to Asia, which Beijing views as a direct threat to the country's rise.
The carrier-borne aviation force comprises carrier-borne fighter jets, jet trainers and ship-borne helicopters that operate anti-submarine, rescue and vigilance tasks, it said.
The military sources said the carrier-borne force is vital to the strike force of China's aircraft carrier and a vanguard in transforming its navy. It will also play a key role in developing aircraft carrier groups and building a strong navy.
Wu Shengli, a member of the CMC and commander of the PLA Navy, attended the forming event on Friday.
Sources said the personnel of the force are more elite than the aviation forces within the PLA. To be able to fly fighter jets, the pilots should have flown at least five types of aircraft and their flight time must exceed 1,000 hours.
Rich experience in joint drills and major drills is also a prerequisite. The pilots also received training in courses like warship theory, nautical basics, and maritime meteorology.
Currently, China operates one aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, which was refitted based on an unfinished Russian- made carrier and delivered to the Navy on September 25, 2012.
The carrier's original design allows it to carry about 30 fixed-wing aircraft. The Liaoning has conducted successful take-off and landing tests of its carrier-borne J-15 fighters, the main strike force of China's carrier group.