China's first domestically built aircraft carrier begins sea trials


China's first domestic-built aircraft carrier has been sent on its first voyage for sea trials, according to Chinese media.

The Xinhua news agency reports that the new aircraft carrier set sail for the trials from a port in the northeastern city of Dalian, Liaoning Province, on Sunday.

China's sole functional carrier, the Liaoning, is a repurposed Soviet ship purchased from Ukraine, which entered into service in 2012.

The 50,000-tonne carrier is the first to be wholly built and designed in China, and is set to become the navy's second aircraft carrier by 2020. The new Chinese carrier can neither sale for longer without refueling than the above mentioned US carriers, nor can it carry as many planes.

The still-unnamed carrier was launched this time past year but since then has been undergoing fitting of weapons and other systems and has not yet entered service.

Analysts say China plans to enhance its maritime strength with at least 4 aircraft carriers, including a nuclear-powered model.

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The news of the carrier's first trip away from port comes on the heels of another significant accomplishment of China's military modernization program; the successful flight tests of China's J-20 stealth fighter jets, reported on Thursday May, 10.

Construction on the Type 001A, the largest and most sophisticated naval vessel in China, began in November 2013 and work in the dry dock started in March 2015. 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 has been fitted with a so-called ski-jump assisted Short Take-Off But Arrested Recovery (STOBAR) launch system also installed aboard the Liaoning.

The ship is China's latest attempt to assert its military might and follows a surge of investment from 2010 to 2017, when the Navy's ship complement increased from 210 to 320.

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. However, a source close to the navy said it was "too early to estimate" when the new ship would be combat-ready.