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Twenty high-resolution pictures of China's first aircraft carrier, the 67,500-tonne Varyag, appeared on the Xinhua website yesterday, with captions saying the vessel was almost finished and expected to sail this year. |
It was the first time official state media reported on the nation's first aircraft carrier project as well as indicating its construction progress at a shipyard in Dalian , Liaoning .
It said while there had been a marked upswing in Beijing's assertiveness in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, that, too, had been toned down in recent months.
The Xinhua picture captions said refitting work on the Varyag, a Soviet-designed Admiral Kuznetsov-class carrier that China bought from Ukraine in 1998, was almost complete after more than a decade spent on reconstruction.
"A 70-year dream of an aircraft carrier that is all-Chinese will come true soon," one caption said.
Citing the latest report of Canadian-based Kanwa Asian Defence Monthly, the captions confirmed the carrier would start sea trials this year after an active phased array radar system was installed on the vessel.
It was at least the second time official media had quoted a source from the internet posted by military enthusiasts and overseas media to reconfirm Beijing's new weapon plans.
The first test flight of a new generation J-20 stealth fighter jet in January was another well-known example.
Chang estimated the carrier would undergo sea tests - including power system trials, harbour trials, close-range and high-sea trials - for about two years.
"After the sea trials are finished, it will also need at least eight years to test its radar and weapons systems such as the J-15, early warning planes and others on board," he said.
But China would have its first formal carrier fighting group in 10 years, after all the trials and tests were completed, he said.
"Since Varyag is a carrier for training purposes, it's possible that it will be equipped with magnetic or steam catapults instead of its originally designed ski-jump ramp take-off system," Chang said. (SCMP)