China’s second aircraft carrier, the first to be domestically built, appears to have left the Dalian Shipyard on Thursday for its ninth sea trial, where it might receive fighter jets before its official commissioning, reports said.
The carrier set out on Thursday morning, according to videos and photos posted on Chinese social media and a report by Hong Kong-based news website wenweipo.com.
A navigation restriction notice released by the Maritime Safety Administration of China on Tuesday said a military mission is scheduled from Thursday to Friday in the Bohai Sea, and the wenweipo.com report pointed out that the restricted zone is identical to the aircraft carrier’s eighth sea trial.
Since the navigation restriction period is only two days, and the zone is close to a military base that hosts aircraft carrier-borne fighter jets, the objective of the sea trial could be for it to receive fighter jets, wenweipo.com said, citing analysts.
Two other navigation restriction notices by the Maritime Safety Administration, both released on Thursday, said there were two more military missions–one in the North Yellow Sea from Friday to November 21, and the other in the Bohai Strait and North Yellow Sea from Friday to November 22.
It is unclear which and if these three military restriction zones are related to the aircraft carrier, a military expert who requested anonymity told the Global Times on Thursday.
The domestically built aircraft carrier could complete the two-day mission to get fighter jets and then head to a longer one, or return to the shipyard on Friday, or could go directly to a longer mission without taking fighter jets as the report suggested, the expert said.
After completing its eighth sea trial, the second aircraft carrier prepared for a possible commissioning ceremony, with troops in white naval uniforms lining the ship’s flight deck and hull number painted, wenweipo.com reported, noting that the number has since been erased.
Military observers expect the commissioning soon.