China military: Type 001A aircraft carrier starts more advanced testing as sea trials begin in earnest
First home-built carrier starts serious business of testing equipment as countdown to making vessel combat ready
China’s first home-grown aircraft carrier is likely to be carrying out more advanced tests as the next phase of its second sea trial begins, military experts said.
An area of about 1,300 sq km near a shipyard in the northeastern province of Liaoning, where the Type 001A vessel was built, has been restricted to other shipping for eight days beginning on Friday.
The Liaoning Maritime Safety Administration did not give further details, but military observers said the area in the Yellow Sea had been reserved for the aircraft carrier.
On Thursday, the Chinese defence ministry said the vessel had recently left the dock of Dalian shipyard in recent days and was travelling to the area to carry out offshore trials.
“This sea trail will mainly test equipment … following a normal working schedule,” ministry spokesman Wu Qian told a regular press conference on Thursday, adding that construction work and previous tests had gone smoothly and achieved their expected purpose.
Photos and videos posted online showed the 65,000-tonne vessel leaving the Dalian shipyard on Sunday towed by several tugboats, three months after its maiden voyage in May.
Military experts said the next stage of the trial indicated the ship was beginning more complicated tests as it continues the process of being made combat-ready.
“The maiden voyage of the home-grown carrier had more political symbolic significance. The second phase of sea trials means it has started more scientific and comprehensive tests,” Hong Kong-based military expert Song Zhongping said.
Unlike the country’s first aircraft carrier the Liaoning, a retrofitted Soviet Kuznetsov-class vessel bought from Ukraine in 1998, which is seen primarily as a training platform, the home-grown Type 001A vessel would be a real combat ship.
Beijing-based naval expert Li Jie said the restricted zone would be used to test the endurance of its propulsion system, cruising ability, speed, manoeuvrability, deck elevators and other equipment.
“As a warship, it’s necessary to test whether the engines are able to cope with the highest speed of over 30 knots (about 55.6km per hour),” Li said.
He also said that the crew would test the range of its high-speed turning circle, the stability of its hull and how long it can sail at full speed.
Beijing-based military observer Zhou Chenming said the Type 001A would take a break after wrapping up the eight-day testing period.
“The second phase of sea trials will be conducted step-by-step, with all tests needing to be carefully studied and reviewed,” he said.
Analysts said the carrier need to spend at least six to 12 months undergoing the tests, but it could be ready to be handed over to the navy by October 1 next year for the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the People’s Republic of China.
The vessel made its maiden voyage over five days from May 13, a trip that sources told the South China Morning Post involved a test to ensure there were no leaks below the waterline.