China puts Fujian aircraft carrier systems to milestone test

Liu Zhen in Beijing, South China Morning Post

Posted at Sep 26 2022 01:13 AM

This screen grab made from video released by Chinese state broadcaster CCTV shows the launch ceremony of the Fujian, a People's Liberation Army (PLA) aircraft carrier, at a shipyard in Shanghai on June 17, 2022. China on June 17 launched its third aircraft carrier, the first designed and built entirely in the country, marking a major military advance for the Asian superpower. CCTV / AFP
This screen grab made from video released by Chinese state broadcaster CCTV shows the launch ceremony of the Fujian, a People's Liberation Army (PLA) aircraft carrier, at a shipyard in Shanghai on June 17, 2022. China on June 17 launched its third aircraft carrier, the first designed and built entirely in the country, marking a major military advance for the Asian superpower. CCTV / AFP

Mooring trials taking place at the same time as fitting out, which could save time, state broadcaster says

Vessel expected to be a major presence in the Taiwan Strait


China appears to be streamlining construction of its third and most advanced aircraft carrier, embarking on mooring trials for the Fujian at the same time as it installs and calibrates equipment.

Mooring trials test all systems on a vessel – from power propulsion to mechanical equipment – in terms of how they work individually as well as together.

The Fujian is the biggest and most complex warship developed in China, with advanced electromagnetic catapults – technology that only the United States has put into service with the USS Gerald R. Ford.

Fitting out the Fujian could take until next year but doing it at the same time as the mooring trials could reduce the time until delivery, state broadcaster CCTV reported on Friday.

The trials are taking place just three months after the vessel’s launch at Shanghai’s Jiangnan Shipyard.

The Shandong, the country’s second carrier, started full mooring trials four months after launch.

Once completed, the carrier will undergo sea trials and further tests such as ship-borne plane operation before entering service.

When it is combat ready, the Fujian is expected to play a significant role in any military conflict in the Taiwan Strait, an area of rising tensions with the US.

A Chinese carrier-based J-15 fighter takes off from the Liaoning on Tuesday. Courtesy of Japan Ministry of Defense
A Chinese carrier-based J-15 fighter takes off from the Liaoning on Tuesday. Courtesy of Japan Ministry of Defense

Meanwhile, the Liaoning, the country’s first carrier, marked its first decade in service with a “full load exercise” in the Bohai Sea.

For the first time, the warship conducted a drill loaded to capacity with 24 J-15 fighter jets, two Z-8 multi-role helicopters and a Z-9 helicopter on its flight deck, according to the CCTV report.

The Liaoning was commissioned on September 25, 2012. At the time, the warship had no aircraft on board but two months later, the first J-15 took off and landed on the ship.

Over the decade, as the experience and number of the pilots and operators grew, the number of aircraft on the vessel slowly rose to finally being able to fill up its hangars.

It took five years for the Liaoning to complete 1,000 J-15 take-off and landing operations, and half the time to do the next 1,000.

The Liaoning was an incomplete Soviet Kuznetsov-class carrier bought from Ukraine in 1998 and towed to China in 2002. It was retrofitted in the following years and finally delivered to the People’s Liberation Army Navy in 2012.

Based on Liaoning, China built its second carrier Shandong, which was launched in 2017 and commissioned in 2019. It was the first to be built domestically and has a ski-jump take-off ramp.

The three aircraft carriers are only part of the PLA Navy’s fleet that has grown rapidly over the past 10 years. It is now the world’s largest navy by number of vessels, with some of the most powerful warships.

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