China’s 3rd aircraft carrier the Fujian begins first sea trial

global times

By Liu Xuanzun 

    and Guo YuandanThe Fujian, China’s third aircraft carrier, also the first equipped with electromagnetic catapults, on Wednesday started its first sea trial session, a move analysts said will test newly integrated technology and lay a solid foundation for the commissioning of the 80,000 ton-class warship.

    Experts said the Fujian can be compared with the most advanced aircraft carriers in the world, and can undoubtably represent the top level of conventionally powered aircraft carriers.

    The aircraft carrier Fujian set sail for its first test voyage from a pier at the Jiangnan Shipyard in Shanghai on Wednesday morning, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

    China Central Television broadcasted footage of the Fujian leaving the shipyard live on social media.

    The official confirmation of the Fujian’s maiden voyage came after China’s maritime safety administration on Tuesday issued two navigation restriction notices, one stating that a large ship will exit the estuary of the Yangtze River on Wednesday, and another stating that military activities will be commenced in an area in the East China Sea from Wednesday to May 9, which observers said indicates that the Fujian’s maiden voyage will likely last until May 9.

    Based on the progress of the aircraft carrier construction program, the sea trial will mainly focus on the reliability and stability of the Fujian’s subsystems including propulsion and power, Xinhua said.

    The first sea trial session of an aircraft carrier usually tests the ship’s basic functions, a Chinese military expert who requested anonymity told the Global Times on Wednesday.

    In the coming months, the carrier will conduct several sessions of sea trials and test more complicated operational components, including electromagnetic compatibility, weapons systems, as well as takeoffs and landing of aircraft, the expert said.

    Given the namesake of East China’s Fujian Province and the hull number 18, China’s third aircraft carrier was launched at Jiangnan Shipyard in Shanghai on June 17, 2022.

    From that time, the construction work of the Fujian proceeded smoothly according to plan, successfully completed mooring tests and equipment calibrations, granting the carrier the technical conditions for tests out in the sea, Xinhua said.

    While the Shandong, China’s second aircraft carrier and the first built domestically, took a little more than a year from launch to maiden voyage, it took the Fujian a little less than two years, and this is likely because the Fujian incorporates many new and advanced technologies that require explorations, including the electromagnetic catapults, analysts said.

    The longer mooring tests made full preparations for the test voyage, so the Fujian’s first sea trial has a very good chance of succeeding, experts said.

    Having a full displacement of more than 80,000 tons and equipped with electromagnetic catapults and arresting devices, the Fujian is China’s first fully independently designed and built aircraft carrier with catapults, Xinhua reported.

    By comparison, China’s previous two aircraft carriers, the Liaoning and the Shandong, displace about 60,000 tons each and use ski jump ramps to assist aircraft takeoffs.

    Experts noted that the bigger size and displacement enable the Fujian to carry a larger number of aircraft, and the equipment of electromagnetic catapults allows the third carrier to launch aircraft more efficiently, including launching heavier aircraft, launching more types of aircraft, launching fully loaded aircraft, and launching aircraft faster.

    According to media reports and analyses, the Fujian is expected to host not only improved versions of J-15 fighter jet, but also new aircraft including the next-generation stealth fighter jet J-35, the fixed-wing early warning aircraft the KJ-600 and the JL-10 advanced trainer jet.

    With the start of the sea trial phase, the Fujian is on a solid path toward entering service with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy, another Chinese military expert who asked not to be named told the Global Times on Wednesday.

    Generally speaking, the sea trial phase of an aircraft carrier could last a year or two, but it is hard to predict an exact time table for the Fujian, considering the new technologies used onboard, the expert said.

    The PLA Navy and the Chinese shipbuilding industry make decisions based on science and facts, so they will not rush the tests and will eventually finish the carrier to the highest quality possible to make sure it is combat ready, the expert said.

    The Fujian will significantly enhance the capabilities of the PLA Navy, and contribute to the safeguard of China’s national sovereignty, territorial integrity and development interests amid the deteriorating security environment China is facing, observers said.

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