BEIJING-China's first domestically produced aircraft carrier began sea trials Sunday, the latest step forward in the country's quest to advance its military footprint.
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 past year in a shipyard in Dalian.
Construction on the carrier has been carried out as planned since it was launched in April previous year, and equipment debugging, outfitting and mooring tests have been completed to make it ready for the trial mission at sea, the sources said.
Expected to be commissioned by 2020, the ship will give China a second aircraft carrier as it asserts its claims in the South China Sea and seeks to deter any independence movements in Taiwan. The Type 001A, however, was built from scratch in China.
The new carrier will be capable of transporting about 40 aircraft, and is reportedly modeled on the first, and now only Chinese aircraft carrier in active service, the Liaoning, a re-purposed Soviet aircraft carrier, put into service in 2012. The ship's chief engineering commander, Hu Wenming, told the broadcaster the carrier was smaller than USA carriers' Nimitz class.
The conventional-fuel-powered vessel is about 300 meters long.
Last month, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for the creation of a "first-class navy" at a major naval review held in the South China Sea.
Speaking to CNN of this morning's sea trials, Sam Roggeveen, senior fellow at Sydney's Lowy Institute said: "This is, in and of itself, not created to be some frontal challenge to USA power in the Asia Pacific, because it simply isn't in the class of America's aircraft carriers".
The state-run China Daily newspaper reported Sunday that the new ship will do what a carrier "is supposed to do: running combat-ready patrols and safeguarding the nation's maritime sovereignty and interests".
In fact, the USS Gerald R Ford, the United States' newest carrier and at $13 billion, the most expensive warship ever built, has a host of problems.