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China’s first self-built aircraft carrier is having ‘technical problems’

China's 001A carrier photographed in Dalian Port. (GG001213/Wikimedia Commons)
August 09, 2019

China’s naval forces have designated a portion of the Yellow Sea to a four-day test of its first domestically-built aircraft carrier, suggesting it has identified technical problems that need further attention.

China’s Liaoning Maritime Safety Administration announced on its website Wednesday that naval exercises of the aircraft carrier, called the Type 001A, would occur no later than next Monday to run the tests, the South China Morning Post reported.

“It is likely that the carrier will join the navy for trial runs in the coming months,” said Song Zhongping, a military commentator for Hong Kong-based Phoenix Television, according to the South China Morning Post.

He added, “China has accumulated more experience with the Liaoning and that has helped in the construction and operation of Type 001A.”

The 65,000-tonne ship had previously finished a round of testing last week and was seen returning to port on Sunday. A new round of tests coming so soon suggests there are still problems with the carrier, Zhongping said.

“The fact the aircraft carrier needed to be tested again within two days suggests that the navy may have found some technical problems in last week’s sea trial that needed to be fixed immediately,” he explained. “It’s fairly typical before an aircraft carrier is officially commissioned – we can expect to see more intensive sea trials in the future.”

The design of the Type 001A appears to be based on China’s first aircraft carrier, the Soviet-built Kuznetsov-class ship that China acquired and renamed the Liaoning.

The Chinese military has been ramping up its aim to control more of the ocean and challenge the U.S. Navy for dominance over the seas. The nation has plans to build six more aircraft carriers by 2035, with four being nuclear-powered.

Wang Yunfei, a naval expert and retired People’s Liberation Army (PLA) destroyer naval officer, said four of the carriers will work on the front line.

“China’s nuclear-powered aircraft carriers with [EMALS-like systems] are expected to join the navy by 2035, bringing the total number of carriers to at least six – although only four will work at the front line,” he said.

“The country needs to keep developing until it is at the same level as the United States,” Wang added.

The U.S. military currently has 20 active aircraft carriers, 11 of which are nuclear-powered and nine that are capable of deploying carriers.

Chinese forces currently have five aircraft carriers. In addition to the Type 001A, China’s first domestically-built carrier, the other four were at one point retired. One was from Australia and three from the former Soviet Union. With the Liaoning being recommissioned, the others were used for study.