Chinese PLA Navy’s Second Aircraft Carrier Shandong Commences Sea Trials

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy’s first domestically designed and built aircraft carrier, the Type 001A Shandong (CV-17), commenced its maiden sea trial early Sunday morning.

The aircraft carrier set out from a dock of the Dalian Shipyard in the northeast China’s Liaoning Province for the trials which will mainly test the reliability and stability of the carrier’s power system and other equipment.

According to local media reports, the sea trials will take place in the northeastern part of the Bohai Sea, the innermost gulf of the Yellow Sea and Korea Bay. The surrounding areas were cordoned off by the Liaoning Maritime Safety Administration until May 18.

Construction on the carrier has been carried out as planned since it was launched in April last year, and equipment debugging, outfitting and mooring tests have been completed to make it ready for the trial mission at sea.

Type 001A Shandong is the Navy’s second aircraft carrier after Type 001 Liaoning, a retrofitted Soviet-era Admiral Kuznetsov-class aircraft carrier.

The Shandong 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 Changshe Z-18, Ka-31, or Harbin Z-9.

The ship 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 last year. 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.

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