Recently, China's first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, formed a battle group to undertake ocean-based maneuvers in the South China Sea for the first time. Military expert Du Wenlong told CCTV in an interview that special considerations applied in the selection of Liaoning's route, and that a "safe corridor on the sea" would be formed by cooperation between the naval formation engaged in the maneuvers and military forces on coastal bases, in order to enhance the value of the exercise.
On the morning of November 26th, the Liaoning set sail from the naval port of Qingdao for the South China Sea accompanied by the guided missile destroyers Shenyang and Shijiazhuang, and the guided missile frigates Yantai and Weifang, to conduct technical trials and military training. The long term ocean-going voyage and the assessment of the performance of critical items of equipment in continuous operation are tests and exercises relevant to general naval training, and there will be appraisal of the performance of equipment in different meteorological and hydrological conditions.
On the morning of November 28th, the Liaoning and its four accompanying ships crossed the Taiwan Straits and entered the South China Sea, and then continued to the scheduled area for training and trials.
Du Wenlong pointed out that the route chosen for an aircraft carrier formation on maneuvers should be the shortest. According to his analysis, the aim of this exercise is to get the aircraft carrier formation accustomed to the meteorological and hydrological conditions of different sea areas, and the scheduled targets can only be achieved if the formation enters the relevant sea area as quickly as possible.
On the other hand, the whole route of the Liaoning's voyage remains close to the coastline. According to Du Wenlong, the formation is not a battle group in the true sense; but rather a complete formation without full combat capabilities, so that military forces such as radar, missile and land-based air services on coastal bases should provide reliable cover to form a "safe corridor on the sea".
Du Wenlong also suggested that the training may be a cooperative exercise together with naval and air forces in the coastal area rather than an exercise involving only the aircraft carrier and its formation. The addition of the land-based forces would enhance the value of the exercise. "We have seen that the Liaoning is undergoing trials. However, the fact is that the rest of the formation and the other military forces involved are themselves also undergoing trials," he said.