China's first Type 075 amphibious assault ship appears to have embarked on its first sea trial on Wednesday, judging from online videos, pictures, and a sea trial notice in relevant waters by the Maritime Safety Administration.
The presumed maiden voyage will likely test the amphibious assault ship's main systems, including propulsion, navigation and communication, military experts said.
China's first domestically built Type 075 amphibious assault ship was spotted leaving the Hudong Zhonghua Shipyard along the Huangpu river in Shanghai on Wednesday, according to unverified videos and photos posted on Chinese social media on the day.
A navigation restriction notice released by the Maritime Safety Administration of China, also heightened assumptions the ship was heading to sea. The notice, published on Tuesday, said a ship would leave the Hudong Zhonghua Shipyard on Wednesday afternoon for a sea trial, and traffic control would be in force in related waters and other ships should pay attention.
The navigation restriction notice did not specify which ship was to be involved in the sea trial, but military observers said it was very likely the Type 075, and military enthusiasts claimed that they have seen the Type 075 leaving the shipyard on Wednesday and posted related photos on Chinese social media.
Li Jie, a Beijing-based naval expert, told the Global Times that a first sea trial would likely test the Type 075's propulsion system among other major systems including navigation and communication systems.
The ship was launched on September 25, 2019 in Shanghai with a grand ceremony, the Xinhua News Agency reported at that time.
If the ship is heading to sea, it would be less than a year between its launch and maiden voyage, which could indicate the outfitting work of the first Type 075 has been progressing smoothly, Li said, noting that in the past few months, the ship was likely outfitted with electromechanical devices, power units, communication systems, radars, circuits, and pipes.
In early April, the ship reportedly caught on fire, which was quickly extinguished. Sources told the Global Times then that the fire was very minor and would not impact further construction.
Li said that a sea trial would show that the fire did not delay the ship's construction.
It usually takes a new warship a year or two to formally join military service after its first sea trial, military analysts said. This means the first Type 075 will likely be commissioned into the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy in 2021 or 2022, they said.
On April 22, China launched its second Type 075 amphibious assault ship also in Shanghai, a little more than six months after the launch of the first. Experts said that China has mastered mature technologies, prepared related aviation equipment and needs the ships in safeguarding sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The Type 075 is comparable to the US' Wasp-class amphibious assault ship. This type of Chinese warship is widely expected to play a major role around the Taiwan Straits and the South China Sea.
The fast progress of the Type 075's construction is also an indication of China's urgent need of this type of ships, observers said.