China's first domestically built aircraft carrier, the Type 001A, embarked on its ninth sea trial on Thursday, during which fighter jets may land and take-off during tests held before its final commissioning.
The carrier left Dalian Shipyard on Thursday morning, according to a report by Hong Kong-based news website wenweipo.com.
A navigation restriction notice released by the Maritime Safety Administration of China on Tuesday said a military mission is scheduled from Thursday to Friday in the Bohai Sea.
"Since the navigation restriction period is only two days, and the zone is close to a military base that hosts aircraft carrier-borne fighter jets, the objective of the sea trial could be for it to receive fighter jets," military analysts were quoted as saying by wenweipo.com.
Two other navigation restriction notices by the Maritime Safety Administration, both released on Thursday, said there were two more military missions- one in the North Yellow Sea from Friday to November 21, and the other in the Bohai Strait and North Yellow Sea from Friday to November 22.
"It is unclear which and if these three military restriction zones are related to the aircraft carrier," a military expert who requested anonymity told the Global Times on Thursday.
"The aircraft carrier could complete the two-day mission to get fighter jets and then head to a longer one, or return to the shipyard on Friday, or could go directly to a longer mission without taking fighter jets as the report suggested," the expert added.
The boat returned from its eighth sea trial this October, which experts speculated, was “the last trial before its induction into the Chinese navy.”
Troops in white naval uniforms lined the warship's flight deck on the morning of October 24, and practiced an inspection ceremony. A huge “1” was painted on the ship’s hull earlier, deemed to be a sign of its induction into military service, was erased.
China’s first carrier, the Liaoning, entered service in September 2012. While the Liaoning has the hull number “16,” the new Type 001A vessel could bear the number “17,” military observers noted.
The new boat can reportedly house 36 J-15 fighter jets and additional helicopters, a dozen more than the Liaoning’s tally of 24 J-15s.