China home-built aircraft carrier conducting sea trials

BEIJING (AP) — China’s Defence Ministry said the navy’s only entirely home-built aircraft is carrying out sea trials to test weapons and equipment and enhance training of the crew.

Ministry spokesperson Ren Guoqiang said on Friday the exercises were being conducted as planned, apparently unaffected by the country’s coronavirus outbreak.

The Shandong’s commissioning last year by Chinese President Xi Jinping underscored the country’s rise as a regional naval power.

It is the second Chinese aircraft carrier to enter service after the Liaoning, which was originally purchased as a hulk from Ukraine and entirely refurbished.

Both are based on a Soviet design with a ‘ski jump’ style flight deck for takeoffs rather than the flat decks used by much larger US aircraft carriers.

It is powered by a conventional oil-fuelled steam turbine power plant, compared to the nuclear fuel American carriers and submarines use.

China is seen as striving to overtake the US as the dominant naval power in Asia and already boasts the world’s largest navy in numbers of vessels.

Beijing said aircraft carriers are needed to protect its coastline and trade routes.

The highly secretive Chinese military was credited with aiding in the response to the epidemic in the epicentre of Wuhan earlier this year, but no information has been released about cases among military personnel or any change in the armed forces’ readiness status.

The Shandong aircraft carrier is docked at a naval port in Sanya in southern China’s Hainan Province. PHOTO: AP