China's aircraft carrier begins sea trials

Beijing, May 13 China's first indigenously-developed aircraft carrier began sea trials today, official media reported, a historic step in the country's quest to modernise its military and bolster its naval presence in the disputed regional waters.

The Liaoning went into service in 2012 after being refitted in China.

The carrier, known only as "Type 001A", set out for the trials from a port in north-eastern China at around 6.45am, according to state broadcaster CCTV.

Although China's 2-million strong military is the largest in the world and its navy is also the biggest in terms of numbers of ships, its defense budget in 2018, though raised, is still only about one-quarter that of the United States.

The 50,000-tonne ship will become the country's second aircraft carrier and the first to be entirely built and designed inside of China when it joins the navy sometime before 2020. This new steam propulsion system has been fitted on Type 002.

"Aircraft carriers are for power projection and for domination, and this is just the first of several more indigenous carriers".

Experts have said that the new carrier will have missions that differ from those of the Liaoning, which is mainly tasked with testing equipment and weapons and training personnel. As of this year it fields 11 nuclear-powered carriers with "catapult" technology, in which pistons or electromagnetic rails speed aircraft up as they leave the runway.

The Shandong will be able to carry up to 24 Shenyang J-15 multirole fighter jets, a variant of the fourth-generation Sukhoi Su-33 twin-engines air superiority fighter, as well as around ten rotary wing aircraft including Changshe Z-18, Ka-31, or Harbin Z-9 helicopters.

The photos and videos released this morning also allow us to see that the anti-frogman grenade launching system of the second Chinese aircraft carrier has evolved from eight tubes to twelve tubes per system. In March it sailed through the Taiwan Strait, prompting Taipei to dispatch ships and planes to track the vessel, on the same day that Chinese President Xi Jinping warned against what he called any attempts to split China.

The new carrier's name and hull code remain unknown as the People's Liberation Army Navy usually makes public such information only once a ship is commissioned.

  • Rogelio Becker