06:41 GMT24 February 2020
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    China’s first aircraft carrier is back in the shop, with recent photos showing its “island” command center covered in scaffolding and with numerous changes to its superstructure.

    Pictures of the Liaoning in a Dalian shipyard are circulating on social media. While it's unclear how long the 60,000-ton warship will be in the dock, the South China Morning Post noted that until the country's new Type 001a aircraft carrier enters active service, "the Chinese navy may now be looking at going months — or even a year — without an aircraft carrier, meaning it may have to train ship-based aircraft and personnel on land in that period."

    ​Photos show the Liaoning's bridge radar removed, along with its air traffic control center. Beijing-based naval expert Li Jie noted that while the Type 001a is very closely modeled on the Liaoning, it has a number of important differences on its island, including window sizes that affect the ease of flight ops and a flatter front that reduces its radar signature. The island on the Type 001a is also narrower and taller, providing more room on the flight deck.

    Li told SMCP the modifications on Liaoning may be intended to bring it more in line with the features on the newer carrier.

    ​While the Type 001a is China's second carrier, the ship is the People's Liberation Army-Navy's first domestically designed and produced carrier. Liaoning began its life in the Soviet Union as the carrier Varyag, part of the Admiral Kuznetsov class built in the 1980s. The other ship of the class, Admiral Kuznetsov, serves as the flagship of the Russian Navy. Varyag was launched while still incomplete, and was sold by Ukraine to China in 1998. China completed and retrofitted the ship, launching it in 2012 as the Liaoning.

    The carrier is technically classified as a training ship, and has served to teach Chinese engineers about naval flight operations as well as aircraft carrier design, many of the lessons of which were applied in building the Type 001a, Sputnik reported.

    ​Type 001a began its second set of sea trials Sunday, Sputnik reported, to test its weapons, command and control systems, as well as propulsion. On Friday, the Chinese navy also began sea trials of its new guided missile destroyer; presently unnamed, just like the new carrier, the ship is known only as the Type 055 destroyer.

    In addition, two other aircraft carriers, the Type 002 and Type 003, are said to be under construction, although details about the ships are extremely spotty. While Type 002 is said to be of the same class as its predecessor, Type 003 is reported to be larger, roughly 85,000 tons displacement, and to use a flat deck and a type of catapult launch system for aircraft, in contrast to the ski jump system used on the other two carriers, Sputnik reported.


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    retrofitting, Liaoning, island, aircraft carrier, radar, Dalian, China
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