China's first domestic-built aircraft carrier has been sent on its first voyage for sea trials, according to Chinese media.
The possession of a homegrown aircraft carrier - which the defence ministry has said displaces 55,000 tonnes - places China among the few military powers with such vessels, including the United States, Russia and Britain. The ship, when commissioned, will join China's other carrier, the Liaoning - a soviet era vessel procured from Ukraine in 2012 and celebrated as the realization of a "70-year-dream" by the Asian power.
The 77,000-ton Type 001A carrier left a shipyard in the northeastern port of Dalian at 6:45am local time on Sunday, Xinhua reported.
Reports said China is already building its third aircraft carrier in Shanghai.
The new carrier gives China more options as it asserts its claims in the disputed South China Sea and seeks to deter any independence movements in Taiwan.
The carrier was launched - moved into the water - in April a year ago, the China Daily reported.
The new aircraft carrier's first sea voyage is the latest milestone in China's move to modernize its military, a plan which also includes developing stealth jets and anti-satellite missiles. The new Chinese carrier can neither sale for longer without refueling than the above mentioned USA carriers, nor can it carry as many planes.
But it is still the USA that fields more aircraft carriers than any other country.
Experts have said that the new carrier will have missions that differ from those of the Liaoning, which is mainly tasked with testing equipment and weapons and training personnel.
China has developed a new jet fighter called A J-15 fighter to operate from the decks of its carriers.
The new carrier has a conventional propulsion system. Little is known about this new commander but unofficial sources indicate that LAI is "very intelligent" and has a "very good level in English". The ship will also carry several types of helicopters. They said the vessel has more than 3,600 cabins, noting that during construction, there would be at least 3,000 workers from across the country working on the ship each day.
Unlike the Liaoning, which primarily serves as test platforms for Chinese carrier-based naval aviation and technology demonstrator, the Shandong is expected to be operationally deployed and serve in the PLA Navy's North Sea Fleet or East Sea Fleet after its commissioning.
This activity will continue into, but not through, Saturday night and by daybreak on Sunday the rain will be more benign. Severe thunderstorms are not looking likely, but a few of the storms could produce some hail around parts of the area.
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