China launched its first domestically built aircraft carrier to begin sea trials on Sunday, which will likely be delivered to the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy by this year end, according to reports in state news media.
The aircraft carrier, as yet unnamed, set out to sea from a port outside the Dalian Shipyard to begin its first sea trial. The media and some military observers have labelled it a "Type 001A", since the new ship's design is based on the Liaoning but with more advanced technologies, but no official confirmation has been made yet.
The sea trials are being conducted by the shipbuilder and will test the ship's basic systems, including power, communication, fire safety and electro-mechanical functions, Song Zhongping, a military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times on Sunday.
The PLA Daily reported on Sunday that the first sea trial will mainly focus on testing the reliability and stability of the ship's power systems.
"Weapon systems and carrier-based aircraft are unlikely to be part of the first sea trial. Combat capability tests will be carried out after the carrier is delivered to the navy. The builder needs about six months to finish its testing, which means we can expect to receive the ship by the end of this year," Song said.
The ship is China's second aircraft carrier, and construction began in 2013. The country's first carrier is the Liaoning, or Type 001, which was purchased from Ukraine and was refitted at the same shipyard in Dalian.
The report says a radar system and some defensive weapons have been installed on the ship's deck. These likely include the Hongqi-10 surface-to-air missile system and Type 1130 close-in weapon system. Complete outfitting of the ship is expected to take another year.
CSIC Chairman Hu Wenming told China Central Television that the new carrier is a conventional power medium-size aircraft carrier of between 40,000-60,000 tons. "France's Charles de Gaulle and Russia's Admiral Kuznetsov are medium-size aircraft carriers. The Charles de Gaulle is the only one in the class that is nuclear-powered".