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Chinese aircraft carrier Shandong conducts operations in Pacific near Okinawa.

According to information published by Shinmai on  July 9, 2024, the Japanese MoD announced that four Chinese naval vessels, including the aircraft carrier Shandong, were observed navigating approximately 520 kilometers southeast of Miyako Island, Okinawa Prefecture, in the Pacific Ocean.
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The Chinese aircraft carrier Shandong. (Picture source: Globaltimes)

The ministry confirmed that fighter jets and helicopters aboard these vessels conducted multiple takeoffs and landings. This marks the fourth instance since April of last year that the Ministry of Defense has confirmed and publicly disclosed the Shandong's operations in the Pacific.

This deployment follows a pattern of increased Chinese naval activity in the Pacific. The Shandong, accompanied by several other vessels, conducted extensive drills involving over 420 jet fighter and 150 helicopter landings between late October and early November 2023, south of Japan and east of the Philippines. This marked the carrier's first operational deployment in the western Pacific since December 2023, underscoring China's expanding maritime capabilities and strategic reach​.

These operations are part of China's broader effort to project power and assert its presence in contested waters, particularly amid ongoing tensions over territorial disputes in the South China Sea and East China Sea.

Technical data

Shandong's design is heavily based on the Soviet Kuznetsov-class, similar to China's first carrier, Liaoning. It retains the ski-jump takeoff system, allowing it to operate Shenyang J-15 fighter jets and various helicopters such as the Z-18 and Z-9. The carrier is approximately 305 meters in length and has a displacement of around 60,000 to 70,000 tons. It is powered by conventional steam turbines and can reach speeds up to 31 knots.

The flight deck and hangar design have been optimized to improve aircraft operations, with a smaller island structure and expanded aft sponsons. This allows Shandong to carry around 40 to 50 aircraft, including combat jets and support helicopters. The ship also features advanced sensors and radar systems, including the Type 346A radar, and is equipped with HQ-10 surface-to-air missile systems and Type 1130 close-in weapon systems for defense.

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