The first aircraft carrier ever built in China has begun sea trials.
Known only as ‘Type 001A', the vessel is expected to enter service in 2020, joining China’s only other aircraft carrier, Liaoning, which was bought second-hand from Ukraine in 1998, refitted in China, and then commissioned in 2012.
"This is a landmark development in demonstrating the ambition and intention of the Chinese government under Xi Jinping,” explains Steve Tsang, director of the China Institute at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS).
"Aircraft carriers are built for power projection and for domination – and this is just the first of several more carriers that will be built by the Chinese. The world really needs to take notice of Xi’s determination."
Both Chinese carriers have similar ‘ski jump’ ramps, and closely resemble Soviet-style vessels.
Meanwhile, all 11 of the US Navy’s aircraft carriers are nuclear powered and are fitted with far superior technology.
"However, for China’s neighbours this new carrier is frightening,” adds Prof Tsang. “None of them can remotely match China’s new naval capabilities."
With a displacement of around 50,000-tons, Type 001A is 315m long and 75m wide. It can accommodate several new domestically-developed J-15 fighter jets.
Chinese state media reports the country intends to build at least six aircraft carriers in the next few years.
“Liaoning was intended to act as more of a training vessel, whereas Type 001A is likely to be properly prepared for combat missions,” says China expert, Peter Layton, a visiting fellow at the Griffith Asia Institute in Australia.
“This new carrier will help to position China alongside a select number of countries with global naval capabilities, including Russia, France, the United States, and the United Kingdom.”