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China's New Aircraft Carrier Heads Out for Sea Trials

14 May 2018

China's first domestically manufactured aircraft carrier yesterday started sea trials, state media said, a landmark in Beijing's ambitious plans to modernize its navy as it presses its claims in disputed regional waters.

Speaking to CNN of this morning's sea trials, Sam Roggeveen, senior fellow at Sydney's Lowy Institute said: "This is, in and of itself, not created to be some frontal challenge to USA power in the Asia Pacific, because it simply isn't in the class of America's aircraft carriers".

Now the country only has a retrofitted Soviet-era aircraft carrier called the Liaoning, which was launched in 2012.

Officials still have not named the 50,000-ton carrier.

One of the key differences between Liaoning and the Type 001A is that while the first carrier was meant to be used as a training asset, the new vessel can be used as a front-line combat vessel.

Both Chinese aircraft carriers have similar "ski jump" ramps, and closely resemble Soviet style vessels.

However it would still be no match in size or variety to the nuclear-powered vessels of the United States Navy, which has 11 providers.

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In addition, the carrier is first built on their own.

The ship, temporarily named Type 001A, was floated off in April 2017 after nearly 4 years of construction.

But it is still the USA that fields more aircraft carriers than any other country. Besides India, the US, Russia, the UK, France, Italy, Thailand and China operate a total of 18 aircraft carriers.

China's "Type 001A" aircraft carrier will displace 55,000 tonnes and use conventional rather than nuclear propulsion, according to China's defence ministry.

The aircraft carrier, which has been under construction since November 2013, was expected to enter service around 2020, but the People's Daily quoted an expert last month saying that it may be handed over to the navy as early as this year. Like the older ship, it can carry some 40 planes.

Although China's 2-million strong military is the largest in the world and its navy is also the biggest in terms of numbers of ships, its defense budget in 2018, though raised, is still only about one-quarter that of the United States.

China's New Aircraft Carrier Heads Out for Sea Trials