China’s first indigenous aircraft carrier is expected to conduct its maiden sea trials next month, even as the country’s navy began building a third carrier vessel in Shanghai. China had launched its second aircraft carrier in April 2017 after it commissioned the first carrier the Liaoning, a re-fitted Soviet Union-made vessel in 2012. “China’s first homemade aircraft carrier might conduct its sea trials around Spring Festival in mid-February,” Li Jie, a Beijing-based naval expert, told state-run Global Times. He said it was possible the Liaoning could carry training personnel from China’s second aircraft carrier for them to study and gain experience. Taiwan’s defence authorities last week in a statement on its website had said that the Liaoning, which passed the west side of the Taiwan Straits, was expected to embark on a long-distance voyage.
China has developed a new jet fighter called A J-15 fighter to operate from the decks of its carriers, the report said. The Liaoning conducted three cross-sea area training exercises in 2013, 2016 and 2017. “Passing the Taiwan Straits is not strange for the aircraft carrier and its naval formation,” Li stressed. He added that this time the Liaoning might go through Miyako Strait to complete another circle of Taiwan. Last week the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post had reported that China has started building its third aircraft carrier with a hi-tech launch system.
The third aircraft, a second home-grown, is being built at a Shanghai shipyard since last year, it quoted People’s Liberation Army (PLA) officials as saying. The Shanghai shipyard is still working on the third aircraft carrier’s hull, which is expected to take about two years. Earlier reports said China plans to have four aircraft carriers in by 2030 to operate from the disputed South China Sea as well as Indian Ocean. “Building the new carrier will be more complicated and challenging than the other two ships,” a PLA official told Post.