China’s first domestically built aircraft carrier will soon strut its stuff in a second sea trial in the Bohai and Yellow Seas, possibly as soon as this weekend according to Chinese state media, after dry-dock outfitting and adjustments to its hull and propulsion system have been completed.
The brand-new indigenous seagoing airbase, yet to be named and only referred to as the Type 001A carrier, embarked on its five-day maiden voyage in May.
The short lag of a little over a month before the second sail is evidence that the 70,000-ton vessel is making steady, and likely accelerated, headway toward its official delivery to the People’s Liberation Army Navy, with some military observers speculating that a ceremony could be held as early as October.
Another sign of satisfactory progress is the fact that shortly after the first sea trial, Beijing doled out commendations and promotions to cadres involved in the arduous undertaking. The deputy general manager of state-run China Shipbuilding Industry Corp (CSIC), Yang Jincheng, who oversaw the design and construction of the carrier and whose purview also included sea trials and maintenance, was recently elevated to a ministerial-level position.
Furthermore, the Hong Kong-based Wen Wei Po newspaper revealed on Thursday that the carrier’s dry dock had been flooded again at the Dalian Shipyard.
Yet a People’s Daily article on the same day said no tests were glossed over on the new carrier simply to score extra brownie points in national propaganda, and no single process of pre-delivery sea trials would be omitted even though the ship had always been in excellent condition.
“The Liaoning [the PLA Navy’s refurbished training carrier bought from Ukraine] helped China gain experience in testing a huge warship like a carrier, so the shipbuilder CSIC can accelerate the process but all steps must be taken, albeit quickly, and there is no shortcut,” the article said.
Meanwhile the Liaoning is still moored next to its sister ship in Dalian for maintenance, more than a month after the historic occasion when two lookalike carriers appeared side by side for a picture-perfect show of China’s newly acquired naval prowess.
Recent photos showed that radar components had been removed from the Liaoning‘s island, believed to be replaced by more advanced ones.