STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

China's first homegrown aircraft carrier heads out for sea trial

China's first domestically built aircraft carrier began sea trials on Sunday, a historic step in the country's missio...

Posted: May 13, 2018 7:04 PM
Updated: May 14, 2018 3:54 AM

China's first domestically built aircraft carrier began sea trials on Sunday, a historic step in the country's mission to build a navy capable of rivaling the world's leading maritime powers.

The new aircraft carrier, temporarily named Type 001A, sailed out at around 7 a.m. in Dalian, in the northeast province of Liaoning, according to reports in Chinese state media.

The 50,000-tonne ship will become the country's second aircraft carrier, and the first to be entirely built and designed inside of China, when it joins the navy sometime before 2020.

The carrier's maiden sea trials follows a speech given by Chinese President Xi Jinping on April 12, in which he announced plans to build a "world-class" navy under the banner of the Chinese Communist Party.

China's first carrier, the Liaoning, a retrofitted Soviet-era vessel bought from the Ukraine, was hailed as the fulfillment of a "70-year dream" of the Chinese nation when it launched to much celebration in 2012.

But experts said while the new aircraft carrier will dramatically boost China's military power in the Asia region, its technology was still outdated and lagged far behind the world's naval superpower, the United States.

"This is, in and of itself, not designed to be some frontal challenge to US power in the Asia Pacific, because it simply isn't in the class of America's aircraft carriers," Sam Roggeveen, senior fellow at Sydney's Lowy Institute, told CNN.

Bigger and better

China's second aircraft carrier will be "modernized" compared to its first, experts said, with a design that's bigger and heavier to allow it to carry more planes.

The basic design for the new aircraft carrier is clearly modeled heavily on the Liaoning, including the signature ski-jump inclination at the front from which aircraft lift off.

The ship, which is roughly 315 meters (1,033 ft) in length and 75 meters (246 ft) wide, uses conventional rather than nuclear propulsion, and is believed to displace 50,000 tonnes, according to reports in state media.

Speaking to CNN, RAND Corporation senior international defense research analyst Timothy Heath described the design as generally easier to build and to operate aircraft from.

But expert analysis of pictures and satellite images of the new China-built vessel reveals it has been altered in subtle ways, possibly allowing it to accommodate up to eight additional aircraft.

By comparison, the Liaoning is thought to currently carry around 30 warplanes, including fixed wing aircraft and helicopters.

According to Peter Layton, visiting fellow at the Griffith Asia Institute, the Liaoning was intended to act as more of a training vessel, whereas the new ship is likely to be deployed in combat missions, positioning China alongside a select number of countries with global naval capabilities, including Russia, France, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

As of this year, the United States Navy fields 11 nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, more than any other nation in the world.

The US ships feature "catapult" technology, in which a gear attached to a steam-powered piston or an electromagnetic rail gets aircraft up to flight speed as they leave the deck.

Aircraft launched by catapults can get airborne and with greater quantities of fuel and ammunition, giving them an advantage over Chinese planes, which rely on their own power when lifting off from the Liaoning's ski-jump.

Still more sea trials needed

Once an aircraft carrier passes its sea trials, that doesn't mean it's ready for combat. Although the type 001A has successfully left the ship yard, plenty of problems can, and most likely will, arise.

In late 2017, the United Kingdom's new aircraft carrier, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, embarrassingly sprung a leak during sea trials and needed repairs.

In the United States, the USS Gerald R Ford, the US Navy's newest carrier and the most expensive warship ever built at $13 billion, has a host of problems.

The Ford was commissioned into the fleet in July 2017, however, a January 2018 report from the Pentagon's Operational Test and Evaluation Office says the 100,000-ton warship is plagued with troubles in critical systems, including its catapults that launch planes, the arresting gear which catches them upon landing, and its radar.

Those deficiencies "make the ship more vulnerable to attack, or create limitations during routine operations," the report said.

Other problems are more mundane, but show just how many things have to be ironed out in a new warship: The test office report says the Ford is expected to be short of spaces for its crew to sleep.

Future of the Chinese navy

China may still be a long way from presenting a global challenge to the US Navy, but as a regional power its military program is moving fast.

With a military budget in 2018 of $175 billion dollars, up 8% on the year before, the Chinese military is pushing ahead rapidly with its modernization drive.

Between 2010 and 2017, the Chinese Navy increased its complement of ships from 210 to 320, Boston College professor of political science Robert Ross told CNN, including another 18 in 2016 alone.

By comparison, the active US fleet currently sits at approximately 272 ships, he said.

Meanwhile, the PLA has begun work on its third aircraft carrier, according to the South China Morning Post, which is rumored to employ a more advanced launch system different from the ski-jump.

"The US Navy and the capability for the US Navy will still be superior to the Chinese Navy in 10 years, but the size of the Chinese fleet will be larger and they'll have closed the gap in technology and training," Ross said.

China has made no secret of its desire to build a modern, "blue-water" navy which could operate around the world.

"If you look at China's acquisitions of facilities in the Indian Ocean and in Eastern Africa, they're quickly developing the capability to maintain a naval presence in distant waters," Ross said.

Still, the main focus of the PLA Navy in the near future is expected to be dominating the waters around the Chinese mainland, including the South China Sea.

China is fortifying islands in the region with facilities that could host military aircraft, creating what some experts have called "unsinkable aircraft carriers."

Last week, US intelligence assessed that there is a high probability the Chinese military had deployed anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles to three artificial islands there during recent military drills.

Compared to the rest of the Asia region, Ross said, only Japan can currently equal the Chinese navy and even then they probably only had about five years before they too would be surpassed.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 113081

Reported Deaths: 3231
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7850176
DeSoto685779
Harrison505083
Jackson445084
Rankin388186
Madison377993
Lee350779
Forrest299578
Jones287784
Washington255199
Lafayette245943
Lauderdale2418134
Lamar221238
Bolivar200177
Oktibbeha199354
Neshoba1831111
Lowndes176362
Panola169038
Leflore165187
Sunflower159749
Warren153655
Monroe147372
Pontotoc145819
Marshall139227
Lincoln138557
Pike137756
Copiah136236
Coahoma124736
Scott124729
Grenada121138
Yazoo120733
Simpson120449
Union116525
Tate114939
Leake114340
Holmes114160
Pearl River112259
Itawamba112125
Adams106743
Prentiss103719
Wayne99821
Alcorn98112
George97718
Covington95326
Marion93542
Tippah88121
Newton85227
Chickasaw83626
Tallahatchie83025
Winston82821
Tishomingo80041
Hancock79827
Attala78926
Clarke73450
Clay68321
Jasper67717
Walthall63627
Calhoun61912
Noxubee59617
Smith58916
Montgomery53523
Claiborne53316
Tunica52817
Yalobusha51914
Lawrence50714
Perry48623
Carroll47612
Greene46918
Stone46214
Humphreys42616
Amite42113
Quitman4196
Jefferson Davis40011
Webster37013
Wilkinson33520
Benton3255
Kemper32015
Sharkey28014
Jefferson27410
Franklin2373
Choctaw2046
Issaquena1074
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 154942

Reported Deaths: 2660
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson22861374
Mobile14468314
Tuscaloosa10148139
Montgomery9875196
Madison915094
Shelby720462
Lee649665
Baldwin647569
Marshall433049
Calhoun418960
Etowah418749
Morgan403635
Houston369232
DeKalb330229
Elmore314852
St. Clair287142
Limestone276530
Walker272293
Talladega261035
Cullman235724
Lauderdale214841
Jackson210015
Autauga202330
Franklin202131
Colbert196731
Russell19233
Blount189325
Dallas186227
Chilton184132
Escambia171929
Coffee171710
Covington169929
Dale165451
Chambers133643
Pike132313
Tallapoosa130587
Clarke130017
Marion106229
Butler100140
Barbour9979
Marengo99222
Winston91313
Geneva8527
Pickens82417
Lawrence82131
Randolph81216
Bibb81114
Hale74930
Clay72912
Cherokee72614
Lowndes70328
Monroe64010
Henry6396
Bullock63717
Washington63412
Crenshaw60230
Perry5836
Wilcox56212
Fayette56113
Conecuh55713
Cleburne5438
Macon52920
Sumter47021
Lamar4665
Choctaw38812
Greene34216
Coosa2023
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 68°
Columbus
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 68°
Oxford
Clear
66° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 66°
Starkville
Clear
63° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 63°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather