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China’s Largest and Most Advanced Aircraft Carrier Heads to Sea for First Time

China's Aircraft Carrier

China’s latest and most sophisticated aircraft carrier, the Fujian, set sail for its first sea trials on Wednesday, marking a significant step in joining the world’s largest naval fleet. The carrier, named after the southeastern Chinese province, departed from the Jiangnan Shipyard in Shanghai, where it has been under construction for over six years.

Here are some details according to the report of CNN International.

Sea Trials and Capabilities

According to Shanghai’s Maritime Safety Administration, the initial trials will take place in the East China Sea, about 130 kilometers (80 miles) from the shipyard. The primary focus will be on testing the reliability and stability of the carrier’s propulsion and electrical systems, as stated by the state-run Xinhua news agency.

With a displacement of 80,000 metric tons, the Fujian is significantly larger than China’s two existing carriers: the Shandong (66,000 tons) and the Liaoning (60,000 tons). The carrier’s most notable feature is its electromagnetic catapult system, which allows it to launch heavier aircraft over greater distances, enhancing its combat range compared to its predecessors in the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN).

Comparison to US Carriers

While the Fujian’s electromagnetic catapult system aligns with the technology used on the US Navy’s newest carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford, the US carriers hold two key advantages over the Chinese carrier: size and power. The Ford, with a displacement of 100,000 tons, is larger than the Fujian, as are the 10 Nimitz-class carriers (87,000 metric tons each). Additionally, the nuclear power of all US carriers allows them to stay at sea longer without refueling. The Fujian, on the other hand, uses conventional power.

Despite these differences, the Fujian’s sea trials mark a critical milestone in China’s efforts to project sea-based air power into deeper ocean areas. Analysts suggest the initial sea trials for the Fujian will likely last between three to six days, focusing on hull integrity and propulsion, with further trials expected to continue for at least a year.

Future Outlook

The Fujian’s commissioning into the PLAN fleet is anticipated for 2025 or 2026, following an extensive series of sea trials. This carrier is expect to symbolize China’s growing naval power, which, with over 340 warships, has become the world’s largest naval force.

While the Fujian begins its sea trials, discussions about China’s fourth aircraft carrier are underway, with hints that it could be nuclear-powered, providing the PLAN with extended operational capabilities. As China continues to expand its naval fleet, the balance of power on the high seas remains an area of close observation for military analysts and strategists.

Read Also: Taiwan Detects 30 Chinese Military Aircraft Near Island

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