BEIJING (Agencies): China’s inaugural aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, has embarked on a crucial sea trial following an extensive year-long refurbishment. Observers speculate that this prolonged overhaul likely facilitated the integration of China’s next-generation stealth fighter jet for carrier operations.

Assisted by multiple tugboats, the Liaoning departed from the Dalian Shipyard in Northeast China’s Liaoning Province for its voyage test. This marks the carrier’s first voyage since it underwent maintenance and upgrades exactly one year ago, on February 28, 2023. The carrier is poised to transition from a training vessel to a combat-ready carrier.

As the Liaoning left the shipyard, it carried full-scale mockups of both a J-35 fighter jet and a J-15 fighter jet on its flight deck. These aircraft mockups were captured in the photos shared by wenweipo.com.

According to a navigation notice issued by the local maritime safety administration, the voyage test is expected to continue until March 9.

The year-long refurbishment signifies more than routine maintenance; it involved intricate upgrades to the Liaoning. Notably, the appearance of the J-35 fighter jet mockup suggests that this stealth-designed aircraft may soon join the carrier’s aircraft fleet.

China’s third aircraft carrier, the Fujian, equipped with an electromagnetic catapult, is anticipated to host this next-generation stealth fighter jet. Additionally, China’s first two carriers—the Liaoning and the Shandong, which utilize ski-jump ramps for takeoff—may also incorporate these advanced aircraft, significantly bolstering their combat capabilities.

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