China's sea monster: The Fujian, one of the world's largest aircraft carriers, set to enter trials

The Fujian puts the PLA Navy on par with supercarriers like the 100,000-ton US Nimitz-class ships and is 50% larger than China's two active carriers.
Baba Tamim
The CNS Fujian towed at China State Shipbuilding Corp's Jiangnan Shipyard Group in Shanghai.
The CNS Fujian towed at China State Shipbuilding Corp's Jiangnan Shipyard Group in Shanghai.

Chinese Ministry of Defense 

Chinese Navy's largest aircraft carrier, the CNS Fujian, will conduct sea trials early this year.

This year will see the trails of China's third aircraft carrier, the CNS Fujian, according to multiple news reports published by the Chinese media on Monday. 

"The trials will contribute to the realization of the centenary goals of the People's Liberation Army [PLA]," senior Captain Qian Shumin, executive officer of the vessel, told China Central Television without giving exact details of the aircraft carrier's trial dates. 

The ship, which had been in its last stages of construction at a shipyard in Shanghai, was launched on June 17 amid much hoopla.

Chinese President Xi Jinping previously mentioned the PLA's 100th anniversary in 2027 as a goal for the communist party's modernization objectives.

The Navy's goals include putting the Fujian, the largest warship China has ever constructed, into service.

China keeping up with U.S. carrier technology 

China's sea monster: The Fujian, one of the world's largest aircraft carriers, set to enter trials
USS Gerald R. Ford steams through Atlantic Ocean on April 13, 2022.

Former U.S. Navy captain and Hawaii-based analyst Carl Schuster predicted that the Fujian's initial trials would take place in the spring.

"Based on the technologies and systems installed on the Fujian, the first sea trials will be conducted on/about March 2023 and consist of basic engineering and ship's maneuvering tests," Schuster, a former director of operations at the U.S. Pacific Command's Joint Intelligence Center, told CNN

This would mark the beginning of a roughly 18-month period of testing that might result in the Fujian becoming operational by October 2024; according to Schuster, the initial testing would probably go for three to seven days.

"Each trial will be followed by an examination of what went right and wrong; and solutions to those problems, whether human or equipment-related, are identified and applied, respectively," said Schuster.   

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The Fujian, which can move 80,000 metric tons of water, is 50 percent bigger than China's two other active carriers. 

This puts the PLA Navy in the same class as supercarriers like the 100,000-ton US Nimitz-class ships, demonstrating China's ability to match U.S. carrier technology.

The Fujian also employs an electromagnetic catapult system, like the USS Gerald Ford, U.S.'s newest operational carrier. 

The final crucial stage of its trials, according to Schuster, will involve incorporating Fujian's air wing into its operations using that new technology. He anticipated it to happen sometime in the summer of 2024.

The Fujian 

Named after Fujian province, the Fujian is allegedly the first of the Type 003 class aircraft carrier of China. And is the country's first fixed-wing aircraft carrier with a fully indigenous design, featuring a CATOBAR system and electromagnetic catapults.

"To be clear, this will be the largest and most advanced aircraft carrier ever built outside the United States," Robert Farley, a senior lecturer at the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce and a visiting professor at the U.S. Army War College, wrote in The Diplomat in 2019. 

The newest and most advanced carrier in Chinese service is anticipated to be equipped with the most recent J-35 fighter, China's response to the F-35C Lightning-II. 

The Liaoning and the Shandong, China's other two carriers, are built with old Soviet technology. 

While the U.S. carriers launch their aircraft using a more sophisticated catapult system, those two ships use a simpler ski-jump launching system where jets merely take off from a little ramp.

The U.S. has been striving to deepen its relationships with friends and partners in the Asia-Pacific area to challenge Beijing's expanding economic and military dominance, which coincides with China's naval expansion in recent years.