China’s First Homemade Aircraft Carrier Sets Sail For Sea Trials

Ryan Pickrell | China/Asia Pacific Reporter

China’s first domestically-built aircraft carrier set sail Sunday for sea trials, another important development as the country strives to build a powerful, modern blue-water navy.

China’s new carrier, built by the China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation, set out from Dalian Shipyard in Northeastern China’s Liaoning Province Sunday, the country’s state-run Xinhua News Agency reports. The sea trials will “test the reliability and stability of the carrier’s power system and other equipment,” the report explained.

The unnamed aircraft carrier will be the second carrier to join China’s naval forces. The Liaoning, China’s first aircraft carrier, is a Soviet heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser China bought over two decades ago and re-purposed to serve as the country’s first aircraft carrier. The vessel was commissioned into the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) in 2012. It was declared combat ready four years later.

The Liaoning is already operational and has taken part in exercises designed to flaunt China’s growing naval power. As is, each of these three sea forces — the navy, the coast guard, and the maritime militia — is the largest of its type, possessing more ships than any other nation, according to expert analysis.

The newest carrier is bigger, faster, and able to carry more aircraft than the Liaoning, according to a side-by-side comparison from The Global Times, a nationalist state-run tabloid While the Liaoning can only carry 24 Shenyang J-15 fighter jets, the new carrier will be able to carry as many as 36 fighters, making it much more formidable than its predecessor. American aircraft carriers sail with as many as 60 to 75 aircraft, depending on the class.

Unlike American Nimitz and Gerald R. Ford-class carriers, both of the Chinese aircraft carriers rely on conventional power, limiting their range and their ability to remain at sea for extended periods of time.

It is unclear when the new Chinese carrier will be delivered to the Navy for combat trials, but it could potentially be as early as the end of this year, Chinese military experts explained to The Global Times. It may be several more years, though, before the ship is officially combat ready. There are rumors that China is also working on a third carrier, possibly a nuclear-powered one.

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