China's first domestically built aircraft carrier begins sea trials

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China's first domestic-built aircraft carrier has been sent on its first voyage for sea trials, according to Chinese media.

The trials are believed to be for testing the engine and radar systems as well as other equipment on the conventionally powered vessel, launched in April previous year in a shipyard in Dalian.

According to state owned media Xinhuanet, construction began in April of past year, to make it ready for for its trial mission at sea, equipment debugging, outfitting and mooring tests were completed. Since then various weapons and navigation systems have been installed.

Now the country only has a retrofitted Soviet-era aircraft carrier called the Liaoning, which was launched in 2012.

Chinese military experts have said that the carrier, China's second and built in the north-eastern port of Dalian, is not expected to enter service until 2020, once it has been fully kitted out and armed. Like the Liao-ning, it will use a ramp to launch J-15 fighter jets, the spearhead of China's carrier battle group.

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Since taking office, Xi has driven an ambitious effort to modernise the country's military, reducing the traditional focus on readying the ground forces of the People's Liberation Army to defend against an invasion of the mainland and increasing the emphasis on technology-dependent naval, air and missile forces. Compared with Liaoning, the new carrier has more space on deck, can carry more fighter jets, and has a more advance radar system.

The second aircraft carrier's name and hull code remain unknown as the PLA Navy usually makes public such information when a ship is commissioned. Like the older ship, it can carry some 40 planes.

Hu Wenming is General Director of China's first homemade aircraft carrier project, and said his team members' average age is only 36.

The new carrier has more than 12,000 pieces of equipment that were made by 532 Chinese enterprises including many private firms, the report said. They said the vessel has more than 3,600 cabins, noting that during construction, there would be at least 3,000 workers from across the country working on the ship each day.

It has been deployed to assert China's claim to virtually the entire South China Sea and is increasingly ranging farther into the Pacific and Indian oceans.