China’s aircraft carrier Liaoning has left its homeport of Qingdao to conduct sea trials, according to a Tuesday report from the Xinhua news agency.
The underway will focus on “scientific experiments and sea training,” Xinhua cited People’s Liberation Army Navy officials.
It will be the first departure since February and comes ahead of a planned blue water test anticipated later this year.
Liaoning is China’s first modern aircraft carrier originally born as a Soviet ship but never completed. The PLAN commissioned the 50,000-ton carrier in September and has conducted a series of flight tests with the Chinese J-15 in November.
The PLAN has said they will use the Liaoning as a training ground for carrier aviation and operations before embarking on a domestic carrier program.
In April Song Xue, deputy chief of staff of the PLAN, has said the Chinese hope to build a larger carrier with a larger aircraft capacity beyond the 30 that can fit aboard the Liaoning.
Though the ship has raised concerns with some over the PLAN’s blue water ambitions, most China observers have said the carrier is of minimal military value.
“Liaoning currently is more of a political statement than a naval threat, posing little operational danger to the United States, its allies in East Asia, or even to smaller regional nations,” wrote Bernard D. Cole, a retired U.S. Navy officer and instructor at National Defense University, in USNI News in May.