China's first home-built aircraft carrier leaves Dalian in northeast China's Liaoning Province for sea trials on May 13, 2018. (Xinhua/Hu Kaibing)
China's first domestically constructed aircraft carrier left Dalian port in northeast China's Liaoning Province on Sunday morning to begin its sea performance test.
It is the first time that the self-developed power system and propulsion system of the new carrier will be tested in real settings, marking a crucial step for it to become a combat-ready warship.
It is said that more tests and trials will be conducted. But details on how long and how far the carrier will sail have still not been confirmed.
Once all trials are done – the ship will be delivered to the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy. It will be given a name, like its sibling the Liaoning – a refitted Soviet model.
The construction of the new ship started on November 19, 2013 at the Dalian shipyard of the China Shipbuilding Industry Corp (CSIC) in Liaoning Province, and it was launched on April 26, 2017, when being transferred from a dry dock to the water.
In some ways it's similar to its predecessor, the Liaoning. Both ships are ski-jump type carriers – which means there is an upward-curved ramp on the deck that enables aircraft to take off on a shorter runway. Also, both are non-nuclear-powered carrier.
Official specs about the new ship are not yet available but just by looking at the ship, some experts pointed out the new ship appears to be a similar in size to the Liaoning, but seems to have a smaller island control structure, which means a larger flight deck space.
While the Liaoning is classified as a training ship, the new ship is a real beast. Some military experts believe it to be China's first combat-ready carrier.
There are only a handful of countries with aircraft carriers in their fleets and fewer have two or more. With two carriers, China will definitely rise in the global naval force rankings. But it's still far behind the world leader – the US, who has ten full-scale aircraft carriers on active duty – plus nine more ships that could be called "light carriers." Besides, the US ships are nuclear-powered and equipped with more advanced technology.
That being said, many experts believe China's ambitions won't end with just two carriers. And military experts say they are expecting more China-designed warships to come along in the next few years.