The Chinese Liaoning aircraft carrier has returned to port after drills off the Hainan Island coast Wednesday, completing China's first foray into the South China Sea by the vessel.
The aircraft carrier completed more than 100 tests, including a review of its combat systems, as the Communist country continues to flex its new military muscles in the disputed South and East China seas, according to Reuters.
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The Liaoning is now docked at the People's Liberation Army naval base in the northern city of Qingdao, China's official news agency Xinhua reported.
Liaoning is a Soviet-era ship bought from Ukraine in 1998 and re-fitted for the Chinese navy. The aircraft carrier has been a symbol of China's naval resurgence.
"During the mission, the Liaoning conducted more than 100 drills and training exercises," the Chinese navy told Xinhua News Agency in a statement. "The drills tested the structure's stress resistance, sailing speeds in deep water, navigational capabilities and weapons and equipment reliability."
The Liaoning left Qingdao on Nov. 26 and began its training mission on Dec. 5. It was the carrier's first long-distance training voyage since it was commissioned by the Navy last year.
The Liaoning also for the first time performed a formation drill with other Chinese ships and submarines in the battle group, the Chinese navy said.
Military analysts told Reuters the Liaoning was accompanied with a strike group of escort ships similar to what U.S. carriers have. The South China Sea exercises with the strike group may be the first step toward what military experts believe could be the deployment of Chinese-built carriers by 2020.
Xinhua News reported the Liaoning was accompanied by the navy's two missile destroyers, the Shenyang and Shijiazhuang, and two missile frigates, the Yantai and Weifang. The group followed the aircraft carrier Qingdao to the Hainan Island.
China seeks to assert dominance over the seas, which is believed to have large oil and gas deposits, increasing fears of a future clashes with other countries in the region, including the Philippines and Vietnam.
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