China's Newest Aircraft Carrier Fujian Begins Maiden Sea Trials

China’s Newest Aircraft Carrier Fujian Begins Maiden Sea Trials

China’s most advanced aircraft carrier, the Fujian, embarked on its first sea trials on Wednesday, marking a major milestone as the nation aims to boost its naval capabilities. The 80,000-metric ton warship set sail from the Jiangnan Shipyard in Shanghai and headed into the East China Sea.

The Fujian dwarfs China’s two active carriers, the Shandong and Liaoning, making it the largest ship in the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s (PLAN) fleet. Only the US Navy operates bigger aircraft carriers.

During these initial sea trials, the Fujian’s propulsion, electrical and other systems will undergo testing and evaluation as China assesses the reliability and performance of its newest naval asset.

Electromagnetic Catapult System a Key Feature

A key feature of the Fujian is its electromagnetic aircraft launch system, a significant upgrade from the ski-jump ramps used on China’s existing carriers. This allows the Fujian to launch larger, heavier aircraft carrying more fuel and munitions over longer ranges.

The electromagnetic catapults give the Fujian enhanced “blue water” combat capabilities, enabling it to project air power far from Chinese shores. This puts it on par with the US Navy’s newest Gerald R. Ford-class carriers which also use this launch technology.

However, US carriers retain key advantages including greater size, nuclear propulsion for longer endurance, more aircraft capacity, and additional elevators and catapults for quicker operations.

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Long Road to Commissioning

Military experts estimate the Fujian’s sea trials could last over a year before it is commissioned, likely in 2025 or 2026. China’s first carrier, the Liaoning, underwent 10 sea trials while the Shandong had 9 prior to entering service.

These initial trials focus on basic operations. Future testing will evaluate the carrier’s aviation capabilities, weapon systems, damage control and more.

Symbol of China’s Growing Naval Power

Once commissioned, the Fujian will spearhead China’s ambitions as a blue-water naval force. It will become the icon of the PLAN, already the world’s largest navy with over 340 warships.

In March, a Chinese official indicated plans for a fourth carrier are likely forthcoming. That vessel could potentially be nuclear-powered, helping China achieve parity with US capabilities.

As China’s shipyards continue producing new warships at a rapid pace, enhancing its power projection capabilities remains a top priority. The Fujian represents a critical evolution in achieving that strategic aim.

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