China's first aircraft carrier could be ready for its first trial take-offs and landings by fighter jets as soon as this month, one of the designers said.
The carrier Liaoning was commissioned in September and completed its sea trials last month. But it has so far been used only for simulated take-offs, in which fighter jets touched the deck without coming to a halt.
Wu Xiaoguang , the deputy chief designer for the People's Liberation Army's national carrier project, said actual test landings on the Liaoning were imminent, the official news portal china.com.cn reported.
"I believe we will have more good news to tell our fellow countrymen," Wu was quoted as saying. He said the tests were likely to be conducted either this month or next.
The deputy design chief, who is also the director of the 701st Research Institute at the China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation, a top PLA Navy contractor, sounded upbeat about the development of the carrier fleet.
"What I can tell you is that Liaoning is only the start," Wu said. "It's down to the country's needs and to how many carriers China should possess."
The PLA Daily said the navy last month conducted its first touch-and-go exercise involving a carrier-based fighter jet.
The model of the jet used has not been confirmed, but it was believed to be the J-15, a fighter now in development.
"The Liaoning will become a real carrier only when it successfully completes both the take-offs and landing tests involving our carrier-based jet J-15," said Li Jie , a Beijing-based military expert. "Otherwise, it is just a moveable platform at sea."
The Liaoning was built using the hull of an unfinished Soviet carrier, the Varyag, which China acquired from Ukraine in 2002.
It uses the original Russian-designed ski-jump ramp take-off system, but Li said future Chinese carriers would probably be equipped with magnetic or steam catapults.