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China's first domestically built carrier, known as the Type 001A, is undergoing preparations for its first sea trial, while discussions about its name show that Chinese people hold high expectations of the carrier's ability to resolve the Taiwan question.
According to the latest online photos from the Dalian Shipbuilding Industry Company (DSIC) construction site in Liaoning Province, where the carrier was launched and outfitted, the scaffolds on the carrier have been completely removed, and a phased array radar has been installed.
"All the equipment and devices on the carrier are in the joint debugging stage, and the main engine has been powered. In 2018, we will present a surprise to the Chinese people," DSIC Chairman Liu Zheng said, according to a report on cctv.com, the official website of China Central Television, on March 13.
Liu, who is also the general director of construction of the Type 001A and a member of the National People's Congress (NPC), made the comments to cctv.com when he was attending the Two Sessions.
"This all proves that the Type 001A is getting ready for its first sea trial, and the exact timing will depend on factors like the weather and sea conditions. April 23 is Navy Day, the founding day of the PLA Navy [April 23 1949], so this might also be taken into consideration," Li Jie, a Beijing-based naval expert, told the Global Times on Tuesday.
"After the sea trial, which normally takes about 6-12 months, it will be ready for delivery to the PLA Navy, so it's very likely we will see the carrier enlisted by the end of 2018," said Song Zhongping, a military expert and TV commentator.
The Type 001A was launched in Dalian on April 26 2017, three days after Navy Day, and the outfitting work only took about one year.
The speed with which the Type 001A was built was the fastest in the history of aircraft carrier construction, as it only took two years from the laying of the foundation in the shipyard to its launch, and more importantly, everything from the ship's body to its devices is domestically built, Liu said.