- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 28, 2012

China’s military has used two J-15 stealth fighter jets for its first publicized aircraft carrier landing-and-takeoff operation.

The jets were piloted by five Chinese pilots as they made five tailhook landings and ski-jump takeoff flights using the Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning, China’s state media confirmed this week.

Such activities are considered routine for established naval aviators, but the Chinese government and its People’s Liberation Army (PLA) hailed the operations as a monumental achievement.

“Chinese carrier-borne jet landings and takeoffs shocked the world. Chinese aircraft carrier prompted the West to speculate,” flashed headlines in the state-run newspaper Global Times.

“While the Chinese carrier program is making great leaps and tremendous progress, America’s first nuclear carrier the Enterprise is officially retiring on Dec. 1,” the newspaper reported, asserting once again that the Chinese military is challenging U.S. military might in every key aspect of modern warfare.

Although most observers say the J-15 is a replica of Russia’s carrier-borne Su-33 jet, Chinese defense officials insisted the J-15s were “completely of Chinese design and engineering, with complete Chinese intellectual property rights.”

“Designed by and made in China, the J-15 is able to carry multi-type anti-ship, air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles, as well as precision-guided bombs,” said the state-run news agency Xinhua.

“The J-15 has comprehensive capabilities comparable to those of the Russian Su-33 jet and the U.S. F-18.”

Jet-fighter project chief dies

Hours after the first public demonstration landing of the J-15 jets on the aircraft carrier Liaoning, the chief organizer of the carrier-borne jet program and the sea tests suffered a massive heart attack on the carrier’s deck. Luo Yang was pronounced dead at a hospital Sunday morning. He was 51.

His death set off an instant wave of national mourning, the state-run media reported.

“Comrade Luo Yang was the first to die for China’s aircraft carrier mission,” said the People’s Daily and Chinese Radio International.

The official website of the Shenyang Aircraft Corp., China’s largest fighter jet manufacturer, where Mr. Luo had been chief, changed its color to mourning gray shortly after the death was announced.

Mr. Luo was one of China’s top combat aircraft designers and had been in the top leadership echelons at the Shenyang Aircraft Corp. for 10 years. He was the leading figure in jump-starting China’s modern fighter jet design and was closely associated with what was initially licensed production of Russian-design Sukhoi fighter jets on the Shenyang Aircraft Corp.’s assembly line.

India, Vietnam slam Chinese passport

New Chinese passports with a controversial Chinese territorial map has sparked protests from several of China’s neighbors, including India and Vietnam.

The map made part of all newly issued Chinese passports includes Taiwan and the entire South China Sea marked by a line that has most of the sea and several other disputed regions as sovereign Chinese territory.

The map ignited a firestorm of protests from the governments of India, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

India took swift action in retaliation and announced that it will print a map of its own on all visas granted to Chinese visitors to India who carry the new Chinese passport. The Indian visa map will include the region known as Arunachal Pradesh as Indian territory. The Chinese passport map identifies that region as Chinese territory.

The India-issued visa with the its version of the territorial map will be large enough to completely cover the Chinese map printed on the visa page of the Chinese passport.

The two countries fought a fierce border war in 1962 over this swath of land on the foothills of the Himalayas. No resolution has been formally reached since the conflict and both sides keep adding troops and weapons aimed at each other.

The Vietnamese government adopted another method to protest and invalidate the Chinese passport map since attaching a Vietnamese visa to a Chinese passport that bears a territorial map the Vietnamese government deems illegal would indirectly sanction the Chinese territorial claims.

Foreign affairs officials in Hanoi decided to issue visas to Chinese visitors on a document that must remain separate from Chinese passports, according to the Chinese foreign ministry officials in Beijing.

State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland said the U.S. government would accept the new Chinese passport as a valid travel document but expressed reservations about the move.

“We do have concerns about this map, which is causing tension and anxiety between and among the states in the South China Sea,” she added. “We do intend to raise this with the Chinese.”

• Miles Yu’s column appears Thursdays. He can be reached at [email protected]

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