Type 001A aircraft carrier
Type 001A aircraft carrier after launch at Dalian (2017)
|Builder:||Dalian Shipbuilding Industry|
|Laid down:||November 2013|
|Launched:||26 April 2017|
|Completed:||25 April 2018|
|General characteristics (as designed)|
|Class and type:||Type 001A|
|Length:||315 m (1,033 ft)|
|Beam:||75 metres (246 ft)|
|Propulsion:||Conventional steam turbines, 4 shafts|
|Speed:||31 knots (36 mph; 57 km/h)|
|Type 001A aircraft carrier|
|Literal meaning||001A-type aircraft mothership|
The Type 001A aircraft carrier is a first generation Chinese aircraft carrier that was launched on 26 April 2017 for the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) of China. It is the country's second aircraft carrier after the completion of Liaoning, and the first built domestically.
The carrier was constructed by the China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation in Dalian, China. According to the state media service Xinhua, initial work on the vessel began in November 2013, and construction of its hull in a drydock began in March 2015. The Chinese government did not publicly confirm the ship's existence until construction was well underway. Satellite imagery for the defense analysis industry showed the aircraft carrier in the early stages of hull assembly by March 2015. Public photos of a hull with military characteristics at the Dalian shipyard surfaced on the internet the next month. In October 2015, the first definite signs of the vessel's role appeared when construction of a hangar deck began on the hull. In December 2015, a Chinese defense ministry spokesman confirmed that the ship was an aircraft carrier, stating that the design and construction work was under way.
In May 2016, the ski jump takeoff ramp was noted to be close to installation. The ship's island superstructure was fabricated in two parts: the nine-deck forward half, containing the bridge and main mast, was installed by September of that year, while the aft half, with the funnel and air intakes, was installed in the weeks that followed. By the end of that year, the ship was substantially structurally complete.
The Type 001A carrier was launched on 26 April 2017. The name of the carrier was not revealed at the launch ceremony, although earlier reports had speculated the aircraft carrier will be named Shandong after the province of the same name.
Following the launch, the carrier was fitted-out and underwent early tests of the propulsion system. After fitting-out was completed in November 2017, dockside system trials began. On 17 April 2018, the ship's engines were started for the first time, and it left dock for its first round of sea trials on 23 April 2018.
At the time of its launch, the ship was not expected to be delivered to PLAN until 2020; however, successful early tests put the project ahead of schedule and media reports indicated that it could enter the navy fleet as early as late 2018. While its predecessor Liaoning has been used largely as a training ship since it entered active service in 2012, the Type 001A is expected to be used in regular military operational service.
The Type 001A began preparations for sea trials in April 2018. Initially, on-board construction equipment was seen being removed, while the engine appeared to be active and radars rotating. Subsequently, sections of the Bohai Sea and Yellow Sea were cordoned off for unspecified military activities, and the ship was seen leaving its berth with tugboat assistance. Analysts suggested that if the sea trial goes accordingly, the ship could be commissioned as early as a year ahead of schedule. On 13 May, the vessel began its first set of sea trials in the East China Sea, including performance tests and phase-in adjustments for the on-board facilities. 
On 26 August 2018, the Type 001A left Dalian shipyard again, purportedly for its second set of sea trials. It was speculated that these sea trials could last up to 12 months, with a targeted delivery date of 1 October 2019.
The aircraft carrier's design is largely based on the China's first carrier Liaoning, which was itself built from the partially-complete hull of the Soviet Kuznetsov-class aircraft carrier Varyag. It retains the ski jump takeoff, which limits its air wing to helicopters and Shenyang J-15 fighter jets, and the ship is powered by conventional oil-fired boilers driving eight steam turbines derived from the Soviet-designed examples installed on Liaoning. It measures about 315 metres (1,033 ft) long, with a displacement of about 55,000 tonnes (70,000 loaded).
However, it carries modifications and upgrades compared to Liaoning. It has increased storage for ammunition and fuel, with a larger aircraft capacity of 44 aircraft, eight more than Liaoning. It has a broader flight deck, while the island superstructure on Type 001A is also shorter to give more space for aircraft movements. The island also has redesigned radars and a new bridge, while the fleet command and flight control tower are on separate floors for more efficiency.
Future carriers, such as the Type 002 aircraft carrier, are planned to use an Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) that allows the launch of heavier aircraft as well as more advanced aircraft such as the Shenyang J-31 or the Chengdu J-20.
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