The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN)’s first domestically-built aircraft carrier passed through the Taiwan Strait on Sunday, Nov. 17.
The strategic Taiwan Strait separates Taiwan with mainland China. China considers Taiwan as a wayward province of “one China”.
Taiwan’s defense ministry acknowledged the transit saying that the Chinese carrier group passed through the sensitive strait with U.S. and Japanese vessels tailing it. The mission was denounced by Taipei as an act of intimidation ahead of the presidential election in January.
According to a PLAN spokesperson, the still-unnamed aircraft carrier, now known as the Type 001A, was transiting the sensitive strait “to conduct scientific research tests and routine training in relevant waters of the South China Sea”.
“The organization of the cross-regional tests and training of the homemade aircraft carrier is a normal arrangement in the process of aircraft carrier construction, is not aimed at any specific target and has nothing to do with the current situation”, spokesperson Cheng Dewei was quoted as saying.
Type 001A is the PLA Navy’s second aircraft carrier after Type 001 Liaoning, a retrofitted Soviet-era Admiral Kuznetsov-class aircraft carrier.
The vessel has been fitted with a ski-jump assisted Short Take-Off But Arrested Recovery (STOBAR) launch system also installed aboard the Liaoning. She will be able to carry up to 24 Shenyang J-15 fighter jets, a variant of the Russian Sukhoi Su-33 fighter, as well as around ten helicopters including Changhe Z-18, Ka-31, or Harbin Z-9.
The ship began sea trials last year and is expected to be commissioned into the fleet by around 2020 after the completion of the trials.
China also reportedly began construction of a third aircraft carrier, designated Type 002, at a Shanghai shipyard. This carrier will be equipped with a conventionally-powered catapult assisted take-off but arrested recovery (CATOBAR) aircraft launch system similar to the one used on U.S. Navy supercarriers. This system will enable the carrier to launch heavier jets such as Airborne Early Warning aircraft and also let the fighters takeoff with full payload of weapons and fuel.