China’s first home-built aircraft carrier begins sea trials to test weapons
China’s first domestically built aircraft carrier has begun sea trials to test weapons and equipment capabilities and sharpen training for its crew, the Chinese defence ministry has said.
The aircraft carrier, Shandong, named after a coastal province in eastern China, left its docking port Dalian in Liaoning province on Monday to start the first trials since being commissioned in December, 2019, the ministry said.
The trials come amid rising tension with the US over weapon sales to Taiwan and a strong assertion by a Chinese PLA general on Friday that reunifying Taiwan by force is an option for Beijing.
Announcing the trials, ministry spokesperson, Ren Guoqiang said training exercises were being carried out according to plan unaffected by the coronavirus outbreak.
“According to our yearly testing schedule, the navy is organising sea tests for the CNS Shandong and will conduct relevant training exercises,” Ren was quoted as saying by the Chinese state media.
“The purpose of this training is to test weapons and equipment efficiency, improve the aircraft carrier’s training capability and further elevate its ability to carry out future missions,” he said.
The sea trials for the carrier, which was commissioned by President Xi Jinping, underscores China’s rapid rise as a naval power.
Construction of the carrier began in late 2013 and the vessel was first lowered into the water in April 2017.
Its first sea trial was carried out in May 2018, state-controlled China Daily reported Saturday.
The deployment of the second carrier will boost the PLA Navy’s (PLAN) rapidly expanding naval power as its warships sail further in international waters.
China’s first aircraft carrier Liaoning, made in the Soviet Union before its dissolution, was launched in 2012.
According to earlier state media reports, Shandong can carry at least 36 domestically developed J-15 fighter jets, some 50 percent more than the country’s first.
China’s first aircraft carrier the Liaoning can carry 24 J-15 fighter jets.
According to the Washington DC-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies, the carrier displaces roughly 66,000-70,000 tons, a few thousand more tons than the Liaoning.
“It features the advanced Type 346 S-band AESA radar system,” a CSIS note on the vessel said.
“Prior to being commissioned, the Shandong underwent nine sea trials over the course of 18 months. By comparison, the Liaoning, completed 10 sea trials in 13 months before being commissioned in September 2012. During construction and sea trials, the Shandong was known as the Type 001A; however, the December 2019 commissioning ceremony indicated that it is officially designated the Type 002,” the CSIS note added.
“The Shandong sends a message not only to those regional powers attempting to check China’s plans to exercise hegemony inside the nine-dash line disputed area of the South China Sea, but also to the bigger global powers,” military expert James Maclaren wrote for the Diplomat website earlier this year.