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Second sea trial for China's first aircraft carrier

2011/11/29 21:50:29

Beijing, Nov. 29 (CNA) China launched the second sea trial of its first aircraft carrier Tuesday, according to a press release by the Chinese defense ministry earlier in the day.

The latest trial for the Varyag, the Soviet name of the vessel before it was auctioned off to China in 1992, focused on testings of the aircraft on the vessel, according to a report by sina.com.hk.

The carrier, which is yet to be formally renamed, set off from its base in Dalian port in northeastern China for the Yellow Sea, where the trial is being conducted, the report said.

The maiden sea trial of the carrier was launched on Aug. 10.

Meanwhile, fielding questions at a regular press conference, Chinese foreign spokesman Hong Lai said that the new trial is to address the problems found during the previous one.

Hong, however, reiterated that China will insist on following the path of peaceful development and a defensive military policy so as to play a key role in regional peace and security.

China obtained the Varyag from Ukraine at an auction for about US$100 million via Chunluck Company, a Hong Kong-based enterprise funded by Beijing.

At the time, the company said the vessel, which was about 70 percent built, would be converted into a multi-purpose leisure facility.

The ship was towed to a dock at the port of Dalian in 2002, where it has been under refurbishment ever since. Work on the vessel included the installation of power systems, active electronically scanned array radars, and surface-to-air missiles.

Earlier news reports said the carrier will be renamed Shi Lang, after a Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) admiral who surrendered to the Qing Court and helped it conquer Taiwan in 1681. But the reports could not be confirmed.

The carrier is 302 meters long and 70.5 meters wide, with a loaded displacement of 67,000 tons and a speed of 29-31 knots. It can host up to 50 planes of various types, mostly Su-33 and MiG-29 jet fighters or their Chinese versions, anti-submarine helicopters and early warning helicopters.

International military analysts think the Varyag serves as a platform for the Chinese navy to acquire carrier-building expertise and technology to pave way for China's construction of more carriers from scratch.

It is very likely that the carrier will be assigned to China's South China Sea fleet to help secure Beijing's crude oil shipping lines. The Varyag is also expected to help play an important part in resolving sovereignty disputes in the South China Sea that involve China, Vietnam, the Philippines and Taiwan.

Taiwan's Defense Ministry said when China launched the first sea trial of the Varyag in August it was keeping close tabs on China's development of its carrier forces.

(By Chiu Ko-chiang & Bear Lee)/ Enditem/npw