Marine Link
Friday, July 19, 2024

China's Next-generation Aircraft Carrier Starts Sea Trials

Maritime Activity Reports, Inc.

May 1, 2024

(Photo: Chinese Navy)

(Photo: Chinese Navy)

China on Wednesday launched sea trials for the Fujian, its third and most advanced aircraft carrier, state media reported.

The start of tests by the Chinese navy came nearly two years after the aircraft carrier was first unveiled in June 2022.

The Fujian, entirely designed and built domestically, is larger and more advanced than the Shandong, commissioned in late 2019, and the Liaoning, which China bought second-hand from Ukraine in 1998.

The development of the Fujian is part of a build-up central to President Xi Jinping's bid to make China the preeminent military power in the region, with a "blue-water" navy capable of projecting power far from China's coast.

The Fujian, which features a full-length, flat flight deck with an advanced catapult-launch system for jets, takes its name from the Chinese province opposite democratically governed Taiwan.

It had been stationed at Shanghai's Jiangnan Shipyard, where it was undergoing tests. CCTV reported the Fujian had set out to sea just after 8 a.m. (0000 GMT) on Wednesday.

The sea trials are a final step before the aircraft carrier is put into service by China's navy. That process is expected to take up to a year. The Shandong conducted nine sea tests before it was commissioned.

The test comes at a time of escalating tensions in the South China Sea. The Philippines on Wednesday said China's coast guard had fired water cannons at two ships on their the Scarborough Shoal.

That submerged reef is one of the flashpoints inside Manila's 200-nautical-mile (370km) exclusive economic zone, which Beijing claims as sovereign territory along with 90% of the South China Sea. An international tribunal invalidated China's claim in 2016, but Beijing does not recognise the ruling.

China Daily quoted China's navy as saying the Fujian's test run at sea was intended to assess the "reliability and stability of the carrier's propulsion and electric power systems."

It said the carrier was among "the most important military hardware" China is developing.

Only the United States, with 11 aircraft carriers and nine aircraft-carrying amphibious assault ships, has more of the vessels than China.

(Reuters - Reporting by Albee Zhang, Ryan Woo and Kevin Krolicki; Editing by Christian Schmollinger and Gerry Doyle)