Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy aircraft carrier Shandong (17) is conducting sea trials in accordance with the arrangement of the annual trial plan, the Navy announced last week.
The carrier left the Dalian Shipyard in northeast China’s Liaoning Province for military missions at sea on May 25. This is its maiden voyage for training since the vessel was commissioned five months ago, marking that the Shandong has primarily formed combat effectiveness.
The training is to test the performance of weapons and equipment and improve the level of aircraft carrier training, so as to further enhance the troops’ ability to perform missions and tasks, according to a PLA Navy official.
Shandong is a Type 001A aircraft carrier and is China’s first indigenously-built aircraft carrier. She is the PLA Navy’s second aircraft carrier after Type 001 Liaoning, a retrofitted Soviet-era Admiral Kuznetsov-class aircraft carrier. The new aircraft carrier’s design is largely based on Liaoning.
The carrier measures about 315 meters (1,033 ft) long, with a displacement of about 55,000 tonnes (70,000 loaded).
Shandong is 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, as well as around ten helicopters including Changhe Z-18, Ka-31, or Harbin Z-9.
The carrier was constructed by the Dalian Shipbuilding Industry, part of the China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation, in Dalian, Liaoning province, China. The fabrication of the vessel started in November 2013. The ship was launched on 26 April 2017 and began her sea trials in 2018.
China has also begun 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 (AEW) aircraft and also let the fighters takeoff with a full payload of weapons and fuel.
It was announced earlier that the PLA Navy is also moving ahead with plans to build a fourth aircraft carrier. According to the reports, the construction of the aircraft carrier, which will be the most advanced carrier of the Navy, could start as early as 2021. The fourth vessel is also reportedly a Type 002 class aircraft carrier.