China's second aircraft carrier reportedly set sail from the Dalian Shipyard Wednesday afternoon for its fifth sea trial, three days after the country's first carrier, the Liaoning, left the same shipyard. Experts believe it indicates a further step toward the final delivery of the second carrier.
The domestically made Type 001A aircraft carrier left the shipyard in Northeast China's Liaoning Province under the assistance of multiple tug boats Wednesday afternoon, according to photos and accompanying captions released by IC, a Chinese image and photo provider, on Wednesday evening.
The testing of carrier-based aircraft could be the focus of this sea trial, an IC photo caption reads.
Photos taken by local residents and uploaded to the internet last week show guide lines and possibly a non-skid coating were being painted on the Type 001A's flight deck, which are considered necessary for the takeoff and landing of aircraft.
The warship is said to have already successfully tested its avionics, radar and communication systems in previous trials, so it is likely fighter jets will conduct take offs and landings this time, an anonymous military expert told the Global Times.
Li Jie, a Beijing-based naval expert, told the Global Times that he believes such a test is likely, or at least there will be preparations to enable future tests. "This sea trial will go a step further toward the final delivery of the new aircraft carrier," Li said.
Full-sized models of an electronic warfare version of the J-15 warplane and a Z-18 helicopter were also spotted on board the Type 001A as it embarked on the sea trial, Hong Kong-based newspaper Wen Wei Po said Wednesday.
The Liaoning, China's first aircraft carrier, was already at sea after leaving the Dalian Shipyard on Sunday.
The two aircraft carriers could rendezvous in the northern Yellow Sea near Dalian, Chinese military observers said, as an area has been quarantined for a military exercise from Sunday to March 5, according to a notice the Maritime Safety Administration of China released on Friday.
China will conduct a multinational naval activity in Qingdao, East China's Shandong Province in celebration of the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the People's Liberation Army navy on April 23, said spokesperson for the Ministry of National Defense Ren Guoqiang at a routine press conference on Thursday.
With the Type 001A and the Liaoning both at sea at the same time they could be preparing for the celebration parade, said Li.
Chinese military enthusiasts are thrilled by the idea of such a speculation, with some writing online posts that they cannot wait to see China's first pair of aircraft carrier strike groups.
However, even if the two carriers train together, it is probably only for parade purposes as the second carrier is still not combat-ready, the anonymous expert said.
The Type 001A has not been delivered to the military yet and therefore might not even make it to the parade, he said.