China's first aircraft carrier set out on a low-profile sea trial on Wednesday, its first journey under the Chinese flag. The vessel set sail from the port of Dalian, which narrowly escaped tropical storm Muifa on Monday. Military sources said the trial was in line with the carrier's refitting schedule and would not be a long one. Refitting work will continue after the vessel returns to port.
The People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy behemoth is a former Soviet Navy aircraft carrier that has been fully refitted for its new role as a platform for research and training.
The ship, formerly named Varyag, is an Admiral Kuznetsov Class aircraft carrier that is 304.5 metres long and 37 metres wide, with a displacement of 58,500 metric tonnes.
Construction of the vessel was started by the Soviet Union in 1985. It was completed in 1992 except for its electronic components. After the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, Ukraine took over the ship. In 1998, the vessel was bought by a Macao casino company. Since March 2002, it had been berthed in Dalian.
The Chinese Defence Ministry responded slowly to speculation about China having an aircraft carrier despite widespread dissemination of snapshots of the ship. On July 27, the Ministry confirmed China's aircraft carrier programme, while emphasising the carrier was only intended for “scientific research, experiment and training.”
Currently, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, Spain, Italy, India, Brazil and Thailand operate the 21 active-service aircraft carriers. — Xinhua