China’s first aircraft carrier is conducting its third set of sea trials, the defense ministry says. The Varyag had set out on its second sea trials at the end of November, during which it was photographed at sea for the first time by an American satellite. The picture above is one of the latest of the vessel to be published, and is believed to be of the former Soviet carrier again leaving its berth in Dalian where it had been refurbished. That it is dated December 22nd suggests the carrier has been at sea for several days.
The satellite picture above is the first reported sighting at sea of China’s first aircraft carrier, the Varyag. It was taken by a U.S. imaging company, Digital Globe, on December 8, and shows the vessel in the Yellow Sea some 100 kilometers south-southeast of Dalian, the port where the converted former Soviet carrier has been refitted. The carrier sailed from Dalian on November 29 to undertake its second sea trials. We have photos of it leaving port and of the first test flight of the carrier-based J-15 fighter in PLA-Navy colors that is being developed to equip China’s planned carrier fleet here.
The Varyag is back at its berth in Dalian after its first four-day sea trial. While few details have been made public, and foggy weather would have restricted satellite observation, it seems that the carrier’s basic systems — engines, electronic systems, navigation systems — were being tested. All appears to have gone without undue incident. Firecrackers greeted the vessel’s return to port. Its weapons systems were covered up as tug boats guided it back in. There are plenty of pictures of the ship’s return on this site, which follows Chinese military affairs. Further fitting out of the Varyag, which was bought as an unfinished ship from the Ukraine, will now continue. The next important phase will be to commission its wing of J-15 fighters. It is expected the Varyag will go into service in about a year’s time, to mark the 85th anniversary of the PLA-Navy.