VIDEO: China Holds First Live-Fire Drills Involving Aircraft Carrier, Warships
China's growing military presence in the disputed South China Sea has fuelled concern, with the United States criticizing its militarization of maritime outposts and holding regular air and naval patrols to ensure freedom of navigation.
Ten vessels and 10 aircraft engaged in air-to-air, air-to-sea and sea-to-air combat drills that featured guided missiles, state broadcaster CCTV reported.
"This is the first time our aircraft carrier squadron, since its establishment, has carried out comprehensive drills with live ammunition and real troops. It is another significant leap for the aircraft carrier squadron, and has explored organizational mode for drills," said Chen Yueqi, commander of Chinese navy aircraft carrier formation.
China's Soviet-built Liaoning aircraft carrier and a formation of warships carried out aerial interception, anti-aircraft and anti-missile drills, in which Shenyang J-15 fighter jets carrying live missiles also participated, CCTV said.
It showed pictures of fighter jets launching from the carrier, loosing off missiles and destroying a target at sea.
The Liaoning has taken part in previous military exercises, including in the South China Sea, but the country is still years off perfecting carrier operations similar to those the United States has been practising for decades.
On Wednesday (December 14), a U.S. think tank said China had been installing anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems on artificial islands in the South China Sea, prompting China to defend its right to install military hardware there.
No other country has claims in the Bohai Sea, a busy northeastern Chinese waterway and the site of the drills, which also come amid new tension over self-ruled Taiwan following U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's recent call with the island's president that upset Beijing.