China's first homegrown aircraft carrier is very likely to start its first sea trials in autumn, as its manufacturer announced that it will present key achievements as a tribute to the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC).
The Dalian Shipbuilding Industry Corp (DSIC) of the China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC), the manufacturer of the Type 001A, posted details of a meeting on its website on August 18.
Hu Wenming, the head and Party chief of the CSIC who visited the DSIC in Dalian, northeastern China's Liaoning Province, praised the DSIC's work, saying the "key project" team has completed tasks ahead of schedule, according to the DSIC. Although the website didn't mention the aircraft carrier, the photo shows that the meeting is of "the Party Committee Working Conference of 002 Aircraft Carrier" (002 is the code of the project).
"The DSIC will greet the 19th CPC National Congress by delivering key achievements on a special product in this special time," said DSIC Chairman Liu Zheng, during a DSIC meeting on August 15 in Dalian, according to the company's website.
Liu said all personnel working on the key project led by the CSIC will stick to the directions of Xi Jinping, the General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee, to provide world-class naval equipment for a world-leading navy.
The Type 001A is located in the DSIC's shipyard in Liaoning Province.
The "special time" refers to the 19th CPC National Congress, which marks the opening of a new phase of China's reforms. And the enhancement of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) navy's combat capabilities is an important part of the country's military reforms, Li Jie, a Beijing-based naval expert, told the Global Times on Tuesday.
Chinese experts believe the project's next achievement will most likely be the sea trials phase.
Zhang Ye, a research fellow at the PLA Naval Research Institute, told the Global Times that if the Type 001A can start its sea trials before the event, which is the last stage prior to turning the warship over to the navy, it would mark a huge step forward in China's development of a stronger navy.
China has successfully tested the Type 001A's power system and the carrier will undergo a mooring test in September ahead of schedule, meaning that the ship's power system is all set, and Zhang said he believed part of the mooring test has already started even during the power test, so the mooring test period could be shorter than expected.
More comprehensive test
The schedule for the sea trials will depend on how long the mooring test takes, Zhang noted.
The sea trials will include an even more comprehensive performance test, which would cover the propelling and communications systems under different maritime conditions, which would usually take two years, Zhang said. He added the trials would not be limited to a specific weather condition.
"The gap between the launch and sea trials of an aircraft carrier can take years. Progress depends on many factors, including funding, technological obstacles and the needs of clients. A new class of vessel normally requires more time, just like the Type 002 which is currently under construction in Shanghai, and will be very different from the Type 001 and 001A, but much more advanced," said Song Zhongping, a military expert who served in the Rocket Force.
"The Type 001A is an improved version of the Type 001 Liaoning, so the similarity and experience can largely speed things up," Song said.
China has started testing the power system of its first domestically-built aircraft carrier, and hopes to begin a mooring test in September ahead of schedule, Hu Wenming, the CSIC Chairman who has chaired the research and development of the Type 001A, was quoted as saying on a China Central Television report. The Type 001A was launched in Dalian on April 26.