China’s first domestically built aircraft carrier began its maiden sea trial early Sunday morning, state media reported, putting its home-made power and propulsion systems to the test.
The yet-to-be-christened Type 001A carrier left a shipyard at the northeastern port of Dalian at 6.45am, Xinhua said, and sailed out of the port half an hour later.
The local maritime authority has declared a restricted area in the Yellow Sea off the Dalian coast from Sunday to noon on Friday.
Military observers have been watching for signs the new aircraft carrier was about to start sea trials after photos of it being moved from its berth by tugboats were published by state media on April 23.
There was also speculation early last week that President Xi Jinping may oversee the sea trial during his trip to Dalian, where he met North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
Last Saturday, an advanced transport helicopter took off from the carrier deck, which military observers said was a signal the carrier was making its final preparations for the sea trial.
The 65,000-tonne Type 001A was launched in April last year and is expected to join the navy as early as the end of this year, well before the original target of 2019. However, a source close to the navy said it was “too early to estimate” when the new ship would be combat-ready.