China's first domestically manufactured aircraft carrier yesterday started sea trials, state media said, a landmark in Beijing's ambitious plans to modernize its navy as it presses its claims in disputed regional waters.
China's navy has been taking an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with its first aircraft carrier, expected to serve more as a training vessel, sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and new Chinese warships popping up in far-flung places.
As of now the vessel remains a ship with no name and is presently referred to as Type 001A.
The Shandong's sea trials mark a major milestone in China's blue water navy ambitions and its quest to built a maritime force capable of operating globally.
State media has quoted experts as saying that the country needs at least six carriers.
The ownership of a homegrown carrier locations China amongst the few military powers with such vessels, consisting of the United States, Russia and Britain.
The official Xinhua news agency confirmed the ship had left for trials with a short announcement.
In late 2017, the United Kingdom's new aircraft carrier, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, embarrassingly sprung a leak during sea trials and needed repairs. They lack the powerful catapult technology for launching aircraft that US carriers have.
With a military budget in 2018 of $175 billion dollars, up 8% on the year before, the Chinese military is pushing ahead rapidly with its modernization drive.
The 70,000-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.
Meanwhile, the PLA has begun work on its third aircraft carrier, according to the South China Morning Post, which is rumored to employ a more advanced launch system different from the ski-jump.
China vigorously develops the program for naval armaments and reinforces the group in the Pacific region.
Last week USA intelligence suggested there is a high probability that the Chinese fired missiles to three artificial islands in military drills.