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China's first homegrown aircraft carrier starts sea trial


China's first domestically designed aircraft carrier set sail on its maiden sea trial on Sunday morning. [Photo by Li Gang]

China's first domestically designed aircraft carrier set sail on its maiden sea trial on Sunday morning, which means it will not take long before it is commissioned to the People's Liberation Army Navy.

The colossal 50,000-metric ton vessel left a shipyard of Dalian Shipbuilding Industry in Liaoning province around 7 am against thick fog and with assistance from several tugboats, before navigating into the sea using its own propulsion.

The Navy said in a statement that the trial aims to demonstrate the reliability and capability of the ship's propulsion systems, adding that its construction has been proceeding well.

China's first domestically designed aircraft carrier set sail on its maiden sea trial on Sunday morning. [Photo by Hu Kaibing]

The new carrier's name and hull code remain unknown as the PLA Navy usually makes public such information when a ship is commissioned.

The ship, the largest and most sophisticated naval vessel in China, was designed and built by the nation on its own.

Its construction began in November 2013 and work in the dry dock started in March 2015. The carrier was launched – moved into water – in April 2017. It has finished the outfitting process, where engineers installed and fine-tuned all of the ship's interior equipment and weapons.

Currently, the Navy operates a sole aircraft carrier, CNS Liaoning, which was originally a Soviet-era vessel that was extensively refitted at the Dalian shipbuilder. The Liaoning conducted 10 sea trials starting August 2011 before going into service in September 2012.

The new carrier has a displacement of around 50,000 metric tons and a conventional propulsion system. Like the Liaoning, it will use a ramp to launch J-15 fighter jets, the spearhead of the Chinese carrier battle group. The ship will also carry several types of helicopters.

China's first domestically designed aircraft carrier set sail on its maiden sea trial on Sunday morning. [Photo by Hu Kaibing]

The new carrier has more than 12,000 pieces of equipment that were made by 532 Chinese enterprises including many private firms, according to officials from China Shipbuilding Industry Corp, the parent company of Dalian Shipbuilding Industry. They said the vessel has more than 3,600 cabins, noting that during the construction process there would be at least 3,000 workers from across the country working on the ship on a daily basis.

According to sources from the Navy, several aspects of the new carrier are different from those on the Liaoning. For example, the new ship's island is shorter, it has three aircraft arresting wires instead of the four on the Liaoning, and the landing section is longer.

Experts have said that the missions for the new carrier will be different from those for the Liaoning, which is mainly tasked with testing equipment and weapons as well as training personnel. The new vessel, by comparison, will focus on what a genuine aircraft carrier is supposed to do: running combat-ready patrols and safeguarding the nation's maritime sovereignty and interests.

Besides China, seven countries – the United States, Russia, Britain, France, Italy, Thailand and India -- operate a total of 18 aircraft carriers. The US is the largest operator as it runs 11 nuclear-powered carriers with each having a full-load displacement of about 100,000 tons.

By Zhao Lei | chinadaily.com.cn | 

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