Beijing buoyed by carrier's second sailing

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 November, 2011, 12:00am


China's first aircraft carrier set sail on its second sea trial yesterday, the Ministry of National Defence said.

Analysts said the rare high-profile announcement showed a more confident Beijing eager to show off its military capabilities to the outside world.

The refitted aircraft carrier would conduct 'scientific research and experiments' on its second sea trial out of Dalian , Liaoning province, a press release posted on the ministry's website said.

'Our aircraft carrier platform has finished all relevant refitting and testing work after it returned to the shipyard as planned following the successful completion of its first sea trial in August,' it said.

The former Soviet vessel, once known as the Varyag, began its maiden voyage - for five days of sea trials in the northern waters of the Yellow Sea - when it slipped out of Dalian in darkness at 5am on August 10, the president of the Macau-based International Military Association, Antony Wong Dong, said. Dalian is the base of the People's Liberation Army Navy's North Sea fleet.

Compared with the maiden voyage, yesterday's second trial enjoyed more 'sunshine', setting sail at around 10am and winning more applause from military enthusiasts and observers, Wong said.

'This is a formal trial because the team working on the carrier is more confident after the previous maiden voyage,' he said. 'I believe the trial period will be longer this time and it will sail further.'

A Shanghai-based retired PLA senior colonel close to the carrier project said the current trial would test carrier's performance and key equipment on board, including its electronic and radar systems. 'I don't think the operation of the carrier-based fighter jet J-15 will be tested this time, although the aircraft have been developed,' he said, adding that the navy had yet to train qualified carrier-based pilots.

'This time it's an assertive move that is also a political response to the United States' high-profile 'return to Asia', especially the attempt by US President Barack Obama to internationalise territorial disputes in the South China Sea.'

He said the decision to allow the defence ministry to announce the second sea trial was made by the top-level Central Military Commission.

Andrei Chang, who edits the Canadian-based Kanwa AsianDefence Monthly and has monitored China's aircraft carrier project for 20 years, said Beijing's transparency on the second sea trial was also meant as a warning to neighbours who disputed its territorial claims.

'The PLA has started to show off its capabilities since last year ... now it has used the opportunity of the sea trial to warn Vietnam, India, the Philippines, Japan and other countries involved in territorial disputes in the South China Sea, East China Sea and even border disputes on land,' he said, referring disputes along the Sino-Indian border.

The carrier was transferred to the Ukraine when the Soviet Union broke up. It was stripped and bought by Beijing in 1998.