China’s second aircraft carrier might conduct its first sea trials in February, military analysts said after Taiwan media reported that China’s first aircraft carrier the Liaoning sailed near the island on Friday.
China launched its second aircraft carrier in April 2017 after the Liaoning, a refitted Soviet Union-made carrier that went into commission in 2012.
China’s second aircraft carrier is the country’s first domestically made carrier.
“China’s first homemade aircraft carrier might conduct its sea trials around Spring Festival in mid-February,” Li Jie, a Beijing-based naval expert, told the Global Times on Sunday.
Li believed that it was possible the Liaoning could carry training personnel from China’s second aircraft carrier for them to study and gain experience.
Taiwan’s defence authorities on Friday said in a statement on its website that the Liaoning passed the west side of the Taiwan Straits on Friday, after indicating on Thursday that Liaoning left harbor and was expected to embark on a long-distance voyage.
The Taiwan military source said that the Liaoning was accompanied by Type 052C destroyers the Zhengzhou and Jinan, Taiwan’s chinanews.com reported.
A J-15 fighter jet took off from the Liaoning on Wednesday to conduct training, according to Modern Navy, the official magazine of the Chinese navy, on its WeChat platform.
Chinese mainland military did not announce the event, probably as the “cross-sea area” training exercises of the aircraft carrier and its naval formation have been normalized, Li said.
The Liaoning conducted three cross-sea area training exercises in 2013, 2016 and 2017. Passing the Taiwan Straits is not strange for the aircraft carrier and its naval formation, Li stressed.
Li said that this time the Liaoning might go through Miyako Strait to complete another circle of Taiwan.
Chinese bombers, jet fighters, surveillance aircraft, early warning planes and refueling aircraft last month conducted “routine training” over the Bashi Channel and Miyako Strait near the island of Taiwan that included an “island circling” mission, said a military spokesperson.