BEIJING • China's first domestically developed aircraft carrier left its north-eastern port to begin sea trials yesterday, state media said, the latest milestone in the country's efforts to modernise its military.
The still-unnamed carrier was launched this time last year but since then has been undergoing fitting of weapons and other systems and has not yet entered service.
The official Xinhua news agency confirmed that the ship had left for trials. Other state news outlets showed undated photos of a fog-shrouded carrier just off of its dock.
"Our country's second aircraft carrier set sail from its dock in the Dalian shipyard for relevant waters to conduct a sea trial mission, mainly to inspect and verify the reliability and stability of mechanical systems and other equipment."
Chinese military experts have said that the carrier, China's second and built in the north-eastern port of Dalian, is not expected to enter service until 2020, once it has been fully kitted out and armed.
The new carrier's design draws on experiences from China's first carrier, the Liaoning, bought second-hand from Ukraine in 1998 and refitted in China.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is overseeing an ambitious plan to update the armed forces as China ramps up its presence in the disputed South China Sea.
The new conventionally-powered carrier will be able to operate Shenyang J-15 fighter jets. Unlike the US Navy's longer-range nuclear carriers, both of China's feature Soviet-design ski-jump bows, which lack the powerful catapult technology for launching aircraft that US carriers have.