Chinese Shandong Aircraft Carrier Groups’ weakness revealed; 610 aircraft takeoffs in 17 days

The 901 integrated supply ship has been elevated to the status of an essential component of the carrier group and a "soft spot" in the People's Liberation Army Navy's carrier fleet.

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Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P. Chacko is the publisher of Frontier India. He holds an M.B.A in International Business. Books: Author: Foxtrot to Arihant: The Story of Indian Navy's Submarine Arm; Co Author : Warring Navies - India and Pakistan. *views are Personal

The Joint Staff Office of the Japanese Ministry of Defence has published photographs depicting the activities of the People’s Liberation Army Navy aircraft carrier “Shandong” (CV-17) from the 17th to the 23rd of April. One of the photographs shows the carrier receiving supplies from the 901-type integrated supply ship “Chagan Lake.”

Since it passed through the Taiwan Strait and entered the Western Pacific on April 5, the aircraft carrier Shandong has been under the watchful eye of the Joint Staff Office of the Defence Ministry in Japan for the past 17 days. The most recent report suggests that the carrier moved from its prior position near Guam to the waters south of Miyako Island, moving in a westerly direction throughout the past week. 

According to statistics, the “Shandong” had 610 takeoffs and landings of various types of aircraft, including rotary-wing and fixed-wing, during its 17-day activity in the Western Pacific.

After 17 days, the carrier turned westward and was located 450 kilometres south of the Ogasawara Islands on April 17. It then returned to a location 420 kilometres south of Miyako Island at 8 p.m. on April 23, according to the surveillance report from Japan from April 17 to April 23. 

In company with the aircraft carrier was the Type-055 missile destroyer “Yan’an” (hull number 106), the 052DL missile destroyer “Jiaozuo” (hull number 163), the 052D missile destroyer “Changsha” (hull number 173), the 054A missile frigate “Liuzhou” (hull number 573), and the 901 integrated supply ship “Chagan Lake” (hull number 905). Two hundred eighty takeoffs and landings were performed by the carrier’s aircraft and helicopters during this period, with aircraft performing 180 and helicopters performing 100. When the 330 carrier-based aircraft takeoffs and landings between April 7 and April 16 are included, “Shandong” finished the 17 days that were tracked with a total of 610 carrier-based aircraft takeoffs and landings.

Softspot Revealed

The Japanese Joint Staff Office has purposefully included a photograph of the “Shandong” receiving supplies from the “Chagan Lake” in the collection of surveillance photos that it has made public. It has been reported that the “Shandong” uses over 1,100 metric tonnes of gasoline daily when it is sailing at a regular pace of 20 knots, approximately 37 kilometres per hour. It is speculated that the “Shandong,” which was modelled after the “Liaoning” (CV-16), has a fuel capacity that is marginally higher than the “Liaoning” 13,000 metric tonnes. 

Therefore, even if the “Shandong” is completely fueled and moving at its typical speed, it can only support operations at sea for a maximum of eleven days before refilling. As a direct consequence of this development, the 901 integrated supply ship has been elevated to the status of an essential component of the carrier group and a “soft spot” in the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s carrier fleet.

Shandong aircraft Carrier refueling
Shandong Carrier refueling (top) and J-15 (bottom)

In addition, the records suggest that a 055-type guided missile destroyer, known as the “bodyguard” of the fleet, ” was originally seen with the fleet on the 10th but separated from the group afterwards. The 112-unit universal vertical launching system is the most notable characteristic of the 055-type destroyer. This system is capable of launching a wide variety of missiles, such as the “YJ-18” anti-ship missile, the “YJ-21” hypersonic anti-ship ballistic missile, the “Hongqi-9B” medium-to-long-range air defence missile, the “Yu-8” rocket-assisted torpedo, and the “Changjian” The PLA has eight ships of the same class in its fleet and has plans to build 16 more ships of the same class. It is anticipated that future fleet formations will usually comprise two and three destroyers of the 055 class to strengthen their defence and attack capabilities.

Taiwan closely monitors Shandong

Shandong, which took part in China’s military drills surrounding Taiwan earlier this month, was reportedly 120 nautical miles southeast of the island’s shore on April 24, according to Taiwan’s defence ministry.

The Shandong crossed the Taiwan Strait in March, hours before Chinese President Xi Jinping’s video call with U.S. President Joe Biden.

According to previous reports from Taiwan, the Chinese aircraft carrier Shandong entered Western Pacific waters through the Bashi Strait, which is located between Taiwan and the Philippines. This occurred in advance of a meeting between President Tsai Ing-wen and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of the United States of America in Los Angeles.

After Tsai’s return, China conducted days of drills surrounding Taiwan, and the Shandong and its carrier-based fighter fighters took part.

The Shandong aircraft carrier formation is still conducting exercises in the Pacific Ocean 120 nautical miles southeast of the “Eluanbi Cape” at the southern tip of Taiwan, according to a brief statement from Taiwan’s Ministry of Defence. The formation will travel through these seas.


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