China's first domestically built aircraft carrier, the country's second, might undergo its first sea trials on April 23, with experts calling it China's first combat carrier.
Online pictures show that scaffolds on the Type 001A carrier have been removed, and a phased-array radar has been installed, Science and Technology Daily reported on Monday.
It quoted sources as saying that the aircraft carrier may conduct its first sea trials on April 23, the founding day of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy.
Li Jie, a Beijing-based naval expert, told the Global Times that the second aircraft carrier improves on China's first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning.
The second one won't be just for scientific research and training, but will be China's first combat aircraft carrier, Li said.
He added it will also provide knowledge for future projectile and nuclear powered carriers.
"All the equipment and devices on the carrier are in the joint debugging stage, and the main engine has been powered. This year, we will surprise the Chinese people," Liu Zheng, chairman of the Dalian Shipbuilding Industry Company (DSIC), said in a China Central Television report last month.
It remains to be confirmed, as sea trials for aircraft carrier are huge projects, and should be arranged only after the ship is ready, Song Zongping, a military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times.
The Type 001A was launched on the DSIC construction site in Northeast China's Liaoning Province on April 26, 2017, and the outfitting work took about a year.
When asked why the second aircraft carrier still uses the ski-jump design for its takeoff instead of the catapult-assisted design, Li said that although China already grasped the skills of the latter, it still needs more funding and technological support for the latter to be adopted.
Our aircraft carrier's technology will become more mature as each carrier achieves progress," Li said.
"The third carrier will be capable of using an electromagnetic aircraft launch system. The fourth may witness breakthroughs in its power units," Li said.
China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation said in a statement in late February that it plans to speed up the process of making technological breakthroughs in areas including the nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, new-type nuclear submarines, and quiet submarines, maritime unmanned intelligent confrontation systems, maritime three-dimensional offensive and defensive systems.
This is the first time a State-owned Chinese defense company has openly identified nuclear-powered aircraft carriers on its agenda.