China’s first domestically built aircraft carrier began sea trials on Sunday, a historic step in the country’s mission to build a navy capable of rivaling the world’s leading maritime powers.
The new aircraft carrier, temporarily named Type 001A, sailed out at around 7 a.m. in Dalian, in the northeast province of Liaoning, according to reports in Chinese state media.
The 50,000-tonne ship will become the country’s second aircraft carrier, and the first to be entirely built and designed inside of China, when it joins the navy sometime before 2020.
The carrier’s maiden sea trial follows a speech given by Chinese President Xi Jinping on April 12, in which he announced plans to build a “world-class” navy under the banner of the Chinese Communist Party.
China’s first carrier, the Liaoning, a retrofitted Soviet-era vessel bought from the Ukraine, was hailed as the fulfillment of a “70-year dream” of the Chinese nation when it launched to much celebration in 2012.
But experts said while the new aircraft carrier will dramatically boost China’s military power in the Asia region, its technology was still outdated and lagged far behind the world’s naval superpower, the United States.