BEIJING (AP) — Chinese navy pilots aboard the country's sole operating aircraft carrier have completed their first nighttime takeoffs and landings, state media reported Friday.
The missions were hailed by state media as a major step forward in the combat ability of the Liaoning, which was bought as a mostly empty hull from Ukraine and commissioned in 2012 along with its flight wing.
In a video released late Thursday, J-15 fighter jets were shown taking off and landing in the darkness, their afterburners glowing. Nighttime missions on aircraft carriers are considered far more difficult and dangerous than those in the daytime.
China said this month that its second carrier, the first built entirely in China, had completed five days of sea trials.
Both carriers are based on the former Soviet Union's Kuznetsov class design, with a ski jump-style deck for takeoff and a conventional oil-fueled steam turbine power plant.
China is seen as striving to overtake the U.S. as the dominant naval power in Asia and already boasts the world's largest navy in terms of number of vessels.
Beijing says aircraft carriers are needed to protect its coastline and trade routes, although they are also seen as backing up Beijing's claims to self-governing Taiwan and virtually the entire South China Sea.