China's navy carrier to begin maiden voyage soon

08:37, August 02, 2011      

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China'S first aircraft carrier is nearing completion and could embark on its initial sea trials as soon as the middle of this month, according to an official.

Scaffolding has been removed from the Varyag, the vessel bought from Ukraine in 1998 and which is being fitted out at a shipyard in Dalian in northeast China's Liaoning Province, the Oriental Morning Post reported yesterday.

There has been a fall in the number of workers on the warship recently, while an increasing number of naval soldiers in white hats and blue uniforms could be seen training on the ship.

At around 5pm on Sunday, more than 200 naval soldiers were seen forming ranks on the warship and dispersed after 30 minutes.

This was an indication that the carrier's maiden voyage would be soon, an official close to the Chinese military told the newspaper.

The Chinese Navy Command has appointed 50-year-old Li Xiaoyan, a senior colonel in the Chinese Navy, to command the ship, the official said.

The official said another three Navy officials were appointed deputy captains along with Li at the beginning of the year.

He said Li and another seven Navy officials began training at the Guangzhou Naval Academy in 2008. They were then dispatched to the Varyag last December.

Li, from northeast China's Jilin Province, was a member of the country's first warship academy class in 1987 mainly for aircraft carrier commanders and among the country's first group of commanders who could both pilot aircraft and sail warships.

Cao Weidong, a researcher with the PLA Navy's Academic Research Institute, said the Varyag was a conventionally powered medium-sized carrier that would be equipped with Chinese engines, aircraft, radar and other hardware.

Source: Shanghai Daily
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