The arrival of the Chinese carrier trials support ship No 89 in Dalian, which has berthed next to the country’s second aircraft carrier (commonly referred to as Type 001A), has prompted speculation that the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) and the shipbuilder are preparing the carrier for sea trials in the near future.
The speculation has been further fuelled by photographs of exhaust emissions from the carrier, from which it can be assumed that alongside trials of propulsion machinery are in progress.
During the initial sea trials of the PLAN’s first carrier, Liaoning , the 304.5 m-long ship was almost constantly accompanied by a trials support ship ( Xu Xiake , with pennant number 88), which is able to provide accommodation for around 2,500 personnel. Photographs of Xu Xiake ’s sister ship (with pennant number 89), which was then under construction at Guangzhou Shipbuilding International’s Longxue shipyard, first emerged in mid-2017. This new ship is now expected to play a similar role in the trials of the Type 001A.
In addition to accommodation and recreational facilities, it is likely that the new support ship will provide workspace (such as offices, briefing rooms, and analysis facilities) for the numerous engineers, overseers, and operators required to undertake the carrier’s sea trials and verify that all of the ship’s power, propulsion, weapons, and ancillary systems have been installed correctly and operate at sea as intended.
Notwithstanding the speculation, no official indication has been given of when the Type 001A, which was launched on 26 April 2017, will conduct sea trials.
Photographs published on Chinese online forums showed that a major milestone in the installation of the ship’s weapons and sensors had been achieved by the end of November with the fitting of the planar arrays for the vessel’s Type 346A primary radar. Other photographs showed that satellite communication antennas had been installed by mid-December, followed by electronic support measure and electronic counter-measure antennas.
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