China preps Fujian carrier for testing, J-15/J-35 aircraft loaded

Recently, there’s been a significant buzz suggesting that China’s homegrown electromagnetic catapult super aircraft carrier, The Fujian, could be undergoing its initial sea trial. This hypothesis has been deduced from photos surfacing on Chinese social media, where observant passengers aboard a civilian aircraft captured the 80,000-ton behemoth in its final state. 

China preps Fujian carrier for testing, J-15/J-35 aircraft loaded
Photo credit: Sohu

Inspection of these images reveals that the drafting work on Fujian’s deck appears to be complete: marked taxi guidelines, defined parking areas, and clear take-off and landing markings are evident. However, the feature sparking the most interest is the distinct presence of four full-scale deck aircraft models on Fujian’s deck. 

Out of these four fighters, the KJ-600 deck-mounted early warning aircraft earns the spotlight, proudly positioned on Fujian’s corner deck. Other noticeable aircraft models include the J-15 catapult deck-mounted multi-role fighter, the stealthy J-35 deck-based fighter, and the Advanced Trainer Aircraft Deck Base 10. With a bit of careful observation, these can be distinctly identified.

China preps Fujian carrier for testing, J-15/J-35 aircraft loaded
Photo credit: Sohu

What does this mean?

If you were to ask for a plain and simple answer, it would come down to this: the deck marking process is nearly at its finish line, if not already crossed. Other elements could not be positioned on the ship unless the paint is completely dry because wet paint tends to ‘smudge’. This implies that the ship named Fujian is only a step away from its maiden sea trial once the paint is dried, and the line drawing process is completed.  

Despite being docked at the shipyard, Fujian, ahead of its first venture towards the sea, has emerged as a significant contributor to crucial mooring tests. Beyond the notable “motion” demonstrated in the previous electromagnetic ejection car test, there are other critical areas that require review and approval. These include ship illumination, fire control, communication systems, ventilation and drainage systems, watertight doors, anchors and windlasses, primary engine oil boilers, auxiliary engines, generators, backup generators, and the power distribution infrastructure. 

China preps Fujian carrier for testing, J-15/J-35 aircraft loaded
Photo credit: Sohu

Experience from China’s first aircraft carrier Liaoning and the first domestically manufactured aircraft carrier Shandong suggests that Fujian’s first sea trial is not far away, provided that it successfully completes the upcoming center of gravity shift test of the aircraft carrier.

Previous tests

Let’s travel back in time to April 23, six years ago. The Shandong departed from its barge-operated dock for the first time, orchestrating a critical center of gravity test within the shipyard’s port. Picture a scene bustling with hefty engineering vehicles, each weighing between 10 to 20 tons, an ideal simulation of an aircraft’s typical weight. 

J-15B fighters will take off from the Chinese Fujian carrier
Photo credit: Wallpaper vista

Throughout this examination, these vehicles continually shifted their positions on deck, compelling the Shandong to adjust its hull in various directions. Having successfully aced the test, this event paved the way for Shandong’s premiere sea trial just 20 days later, on May 13. Thus, it’s fascinating to note that the center of gravity shift test essentially represents the preliminary step before a vessel’s first sea trial.

Fujian will soon be pushed out of the dock

Currently, no large-scale engineering vehicles are visible on the deck of the Fujian aircraft carrier. However, it is plausible that full-sized models or genuine aircraft, mimicking deck-based aircraft, may soon be stationed on the flight deck as part of comprehensive gravity displacement tests. 

Experts spot 'dummy' J-35 fighter on China's Liaoning carrier
Photo credit: Reddit

Should aircraft such as the J-15s, J-35s, KJ-600s, and Trainer-10s be identified as models, it could indicate the use of internal counterweights to simulate the effect of real deck-based aircraft. Shortly, we may come across reports of the Fujian being transported off the dock via a barge for conducting gravity shift tests in the shipyard port. 

Following its departure from the shipyard for ocean trials, the world will bear witness to the emergence of the only “super aircraft carrier” that isn’t American – undeniably a monumental moment for the Navy of the People’s Liberation Army.


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