The aircraft carrier Varyag's maiden voyage is an important first step in developing a blue-water navy, but China has a long way to go before establishing an aircraft carrier battle group, a military experts says. 'The carrier's sea trial is nothing more than the first step in a long march ... in terms of setting up a carrier battle group,' said Antony Wong Dong, president of the International Military Association in Macau. That view was shared by Rear Admiral Yin Zhuo, an aircraft carrier specialist with the PLA Navy who told CCTV it would take three to 10 years to train enough pilots to form a carrier fighter squadron. However, Wong said the sea trial was significant when compared with the PLA's record so far in setting up a navy capable of extending its power away from coastal regions and into the deep oceans. Such a fleet has long been the dream of the navy, particularly senior officers such as the late Admiral Liu Huaqing, the former Navy commander who had pursued the ambition for years. Wong stressed that during this voyage, Varyag would only attempt to test its power system and its 1,000-strong crew's capabilities. The carrier would neither test its maximum speed nor fire any weapons, although he said helicopters might try to land on the vessel before it ended its voyage. Meanwhile, military enthusiasts from Dalian, and those who had flocked to the city from elsewhere, were disappointed not to see the Varyag steam out on its long-anticipated sea trial. He Jichuan, a 17-year-old police assistant from Dalian, said he was frustrated to learn that the carrier had set sail in the early hours. 'I had really hoped to witness the historic moment,' He said. 'I went to the pier by the carrier to watch it every day over the past couple of weeks. I really felt let down when I found out I'd missed seeing it sailing out.' Wong said the ship's early departure was probably timed to avoid surveillance by foreign spies or satellites. 'Satellites can only use infrared sensors or radar to monitor the movement of Varyag in the dead of night,' Wong said. 'Sailing at that time would not only minimise its visibility but spare the navy embarrassment if there was an incident.'