Type 001A, China's first combat-ready aircraft carrier, started its final sea trial on Sunday. The sea trial are expected to last for a year after which the 65,000-tonne Type 001A aircraft carrier at present will join China's People's Liberation Army Navy (PLA Navy).
According to South China Morning Post, Type 001A was towed by tugboats out of the Dalian shipyard in northeast province of Liaoning on Sunday, just three months after its maiden sea voyage. The aircraft will undergo trial in Yellow Sea along with China's most advanced and biggest destroyer - Type 055 guided-missile destroyer. The missile destroyer is expected to be the aircraft carrier’s escort.
Chinese military experts expect the aircraft carrier will most probably join the PLA Navy by October 1, 2019 for the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China. "This time the focus will be on testing the endurance of the new aircraft carrier’s propulsion system. The communications, command, damage control, lift operations and weapon systems will also be examined," Hong Kong-based military expert Song Zhongping told South China Morning Post.
Military expert Song Zhongping told the Global Times that the aircraft carrier's second sea trial will test and lay emphasis on improving and finding solution to issues that came to light during the first sea trial during held from May 13 to 18. The focus will on testing the carrier's power systems along with heavier payloads, command, communication and damage management systems.
Naval expert Li Jie expects the aircraft carrier to test take-off and landing operations for helicopters and the J-15 fighter jet. Li pointed out that unlike Liaoning, which is Type 001 aircraft carrier commissioned into the PLA Navy and is used for as a training ship, the Type 001A is a combat ship and must test all its equipment and personnel. He added that the J-15 fighters are most likely to practice touch-and-go take-offs and missed-approach flights on the deck. The radars, navigation system and main weapons will be put through rigorous tests.
China is eyeing blue-water naval capabilities and its leadership wants to operate at least four aircraft carrier groups to project power thousands of kilometres away and to also ensure that its business interests are protected. China is also building at least four 12,000-tonne Type 055 missile-destroyers to serve as escort ships for its aircraft carriers.
China claims its next generation aircraft carriers will use the advanced electromagnetic aircraft launch system in place of the ski-jump on the Type 001A warship. Its Type 055 destroyers will carry air defence, anti-missile, anti-ship and anti-submarine weapons as well as the rail gun.