Beijing: China’s first aircraft carrier Wednesday set sail for its first sea trial from a shipyard in northeast China’s Liaoning province.
Military sources said that the trial is in line with the carrier’s refitting schedule. Refitting work will continue after the vessel has returned to the port, reported Xinhua.
The carrier was originally built by the former Soviet Union, which failed to complete the ship’s construction before collapsing in 1991. The still-unnamed aircraft carrier was sold to Ukraine. Ukraine later disarmed it and removed its engines before selling it to China.
It is not known where or for how long the carrier’s first sea trial will last.
Liaoning authorities put out a notice restricting navigation in waters off the Dalian coast from August 10 to 14.
Military enthusiasts and tourists flocked to Dalian in the hope of viewing the refitted carrier days before it set sail. However, a dense fog prevented many people from seeing the vessel. “It isn’t a big deal for China to have an aircraft carrier. It is in the state’s interest,” said Tan Changbin, a tourist from southwest China’s Sichuan province.
Military enthusiast Lu Gang believes the carrier carries more symbolic significance than anything else. “It is very complicated to refit an aircraft carrier. It is a challenge to upgrade the country’s industrial manufacturing ability,” he said.
Xu Jian, a retired navy officer, said China’s international status implies that the country deserves to have its own aircraft carrier. “Even countries like India and Thailand have carriers, let alone America and Russia. Why can’t China?” he asked.
Zhou Xiangling, a researcher with the Dalian Institute of Modern History, said the carrier’s trip signifies a new era for China’s navy, an era that will put an emphasis on scientific research and training. “It implies that China is able to make new contributions to maintaining global marine safety and peace,” he said.
The Chinese navy is made up of three separate fleets: the Beihai Fleet, the Donghai Fleet and the Nanhai Fleet. Each fleet has its own support bases, flotillas, maritime garrison commands, aviation divisions and marine brigades.
Senior Colonel Geng Yansheng, a spokesman from the defense ministry, said earlier this year that China will never change the defensive nature of its national defense policy.