Published: Sun, May 13, 2018
Global News | By Blake Casey

China's first indigenously built aircraft carrier leaves for sea trials

China's first indigenously built aircraft carrier leaves for sea trials

China's first domestically constructed aircraft carrier known as Type 001A began its first sea-trials on Sunday, leaving the shipyard in the northeastern port city of Dalian.

Xinhua news agency released a photograph of the ship a short distance from port, and stated that the seat trials will test the "stability and reliability" of the carrier's power system and equipment.

The 50,000-ton carrier will likely be formally commissioned sometime before 2020 following the completion of sea trials and the arrival of its full air complement. The Liaoning was originally a Kuznetsov-class aircraft cruiser for the Soviet Navy in the mid-1980s.

The new carrier will be capable of transporting about 40 aircraft, and is reportedly modeled on the first, and now only Chinese aircraft carrier in active service, the Liaoning, a re-purposed Soviet aircraft carrier, put into service in 2012.

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China has the world's largest navy in terms of numbers of ships, although it lags behind the U.S.in technology and combat capabilities.It has been deployed to assert China's claim to virtually the entire South China Sea and is increasingly ranging farther into the Pacific and Indian oceans. China's first aircraft carrier - Liaoning - was also a 'Type 001 aircraft carrier. The carrier was launched - moved into the water - in April a year ago, the China Daily reported.

One of the key differences between Liaoning and the Type 001A is that while the first carrier was meant to be used as a training asset, the new vessel can be used as a front-line combat vessel.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is overseeing an ambitious plan to update the armed forces, including the development of stealth jets and anti-satellite missiles, as China ramps up its presence in the disputed South China Sea and around self-ruled Taiwan, an island it considers its own.

Most experts agree that developing such a force will be a decades-long endeavor for China, but progress on the home-built carrier holds a certain prestige value for Beijing, seen by many analysts as keen to eventually erode USA military prominence in the region. However, a source close to the navy said it was "too early to estimate" when the new ship would be combat-ready.

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