The Shandong, China’s first domestically built aircraft carrier, has been conducting sea trials, according to Chinese state media. Normal exercises have been disrupted by the Covid-19 outbreak and this was the first time the Shandong took to sea for training exercises since it was commissioned late last year. China’s state broadcaster CCTV did not disclose the exact location of the sea trial, but a notice from the Dalian Maritime Safety Administration said it was in the northern part of the Yellow Sea. According to a notice released on May 22, an area east of Dalian, the carrier’s home port, will be cordoned off between Monday and Tuesday next week for military activity. Li Yongxuan, the vice captain of the Shandong aircraft carrier, told CCTV that the Shandong urgently needed to develop its capabilities. “We need to integrate the Shandong aircraft carrier combat group into the overall combat system as early as possible. And we will strive to make our aircraft carrier into a combat-ready and triumphant ship,” Li told the broadcaster. CCTV’s broadcast footage showing seven J-15 fighter jets on board the carrier and footage of take-off and landing practice. Former boss of China aircraft carrier programme in corruption probe On Tuesday President Xi Jinping said that the pandemic had changed the world order as well as China’s security needs. “It is necessary to … deal with various complex situations in a timely and effective manner [and] resolutely safeguard national sovereignty. “It is necessary … to comprehensively improve our military’s ability to carry out military tasks,” Xi told military delegates to the National People’s Congress. Chinese defence ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang told a press briefing on Friday: “The purpose of this training is to test the performance of weapons and equipment, improve the level of aircraft carrier training, and further enhance the troops’ ability to perform missions and tasks.” Collin Koh, a research fellow from the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, said the new ship need to test its systems. “After all, the Shandong is a newly built ship. While China has previous experience with carriers from operating the Liaoning, it’s to be remembered that the Liaoning is after all an unfinished Soviet carrier that was purchased from Ukraine and then refurbished and modernised. “Even that effort still required a considerable series of trials to validate and certify the Liaoning before it was declared functional.” China’s Liaoning aircraft carrier returns home from a month of training China’s ambitions in the disputed South China Sea have led to a series of confrontations in recent years with rival claimants such as Vietnam and the Philippines, while the US Navy has also stepped up its activities in the region in what it describes as freedom of navigation operations. Zhou Chenming, a Beijing-based military expert, said the sea trials would help the carrier to boost its combat capabilities. “China is confronted with a deteriorating situation especially in surrounding seas. A pair of aircraft carriers can give Beijing a greater deterrent as the Chinese military gradually sails further from its shores,” Zhou said.