China’s third aircraft carrier has started mooring trials, the country’s state broadcaster announced on Friday. This indicates smooth progress for the carrier’s construction and tests since its launch in June, analysts said.
Celebrating the upcoming 10th anniversary of the commissioning of the country’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, on Sunday, China Central Television (CCTV) announced on Friday that the country’s third aircraft carrier, the Fujian, is conducting mooring trials as planned.
Over the last few days, the Fujian has been undergoing equipment installation and calibration work, with related test missions being conducted at the same time, according to a separate report by CCTV on Friday.
Having a displacement of more than 80,000 tons and being the country’s first carrier equipped with electromagnetic catapults and arresting devices, the Fujian was launched in Shanghai on June 17.
Official reports said at the time that after the launch, the carrier would start mooring trials and sea trials.
The latest development indicates that the Fujian’s construction and tests are going smoothly, a Beijing-based military expert who requested anonymity told the Global Times on Friday.
As a general pattern in shipbuilding, mooring trials are conducted when a vessel is moored at port and include the testing of onboard equipment and machinery and their compatibility with each other, the expert said.
According to the CCTV report, equipment installation and calibration work, or outfitting, is currently underway, and this could shorten the time needed for this phase, the expert said, noting that the next phase in the plan is sea trials, which will likely start in the next year or so.
Outfitting work includes the installation of equipment such as fuel pipes, gas pipes, electric devices and weapons systems, Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times in a previous interview.
Since this is China’s first large aircraft carrier equipped with catapults, the outfitting work might take longer than usual to make sure everything is done properly, Song said.
In another development, the Liaoning, which is about to celebrate its 10th anniversary of service, recently conducted an exercise in the Bohai Sea, and CCTV for the first time released footage showing a fully loaded Liaoning, with 24 J-15 fighter jets, two Z-8 helicopters and a Z-9 helicopter on its flight deck.
This is the highest number of J-15s displayed onboard the Liaoning. Over the past decade, the number grew from one, to five, eight, 13 and now 24, showing the growing capabilities of the carrier group, observers noted.
It took five years for the Liaoning to host 1,000 takeoff and landing operations for J-15s, and it took only two and a half years for the next 1,000 such operations, China Youth Daily reported on Thursday.
China now has more carrier-based fighter jets as well as more pilots that can fly the jets, Zhang Xuefeng, a Chinese military expert, told the Global Times on Friday.
China is also much more experienced in operating and supporting aircraft on carriers, Zhang said. It is complex and challenging to operate and support more than 20 fighters than only one or two, he said.
In the future, the numbers of carrier-based aircraft will continue to increase, as will the types of carrier-based aircraft, which will greatly enhance a carrier combat group’s systematic and comprehensive combat capabilities, Zhang said.
The Liaoning and the country’s second aircraft carrier, the Shandong, recently held exercises in the Yellow Sea and the South China Sea, another report by CCTV said.
As China enters the 10th year of aircraft carrier operation, all three of its carriers are rapidly increasing their capabilities, observers said.