While just a few days ago the Fujian aircraft carrier returned to port after completing its first navigation, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) of China is reportedly preparing the new ship for another departure to continue the unit’s system testing campaign. The news, revealed through the viralization of videos showing various preparations on its flight deck, coincides with naval exercises conducted by Chinese naval forces, which have surrounded the island of Taiwan in multiple directions.

The Fujian is China’s second aircraft carrier, and the first of entirely indigenous design, unlike the first two which were based on the Russian/Soviet Kuznetsov class. The vessel is currently at the Jiangnan Shipyard facilities located in Shanghai. Over the past few days, various videos circulating on social media have shown the preparations taking place on its flight deck. Specifically, the presence of what appear to be two mock-ups of the aircraft that will form its future Carrier Air Wing.

This is not the first instance where mock-ups of this kind have been observed, as during the harbor and propulsion tests in previous months, full-scale models of J-15 and J-35 fighters, as well as the KJ-600 airborne early warning and control aircraft, were seen. While there is still a long way to go before testing the Fujian’s electromagnetic catapult, these mock-ups allow new crews to gain knowledge and become familiar with the operation of these new aircraft.

The preparations on the aircraft carrier’s deck could indicate that the Fujian might be gearing up in the coming days and weeks to embark on a new navigation carrying these kinds of mock-ups. However, given the current context of tension with Taiwan, it’s possible that the vessel may not leave port until the naval exercises conducted by the Chinese Navy come to an end.

As reported hours ago, combat ships from both the Navy and the Chinese Coast Guard are conducting naval maneuvers around Taiwan, appearing to encircle the island in multiple directions. According to the Taiwanese Ministry of Defense, the deployment of surface and airborne assets has been detected in its ADIZ through patrols, while the island’s defense forces prepare for the worst-case scenario.

In this context, it is likely that the Fujian will continue its port trials and preparation for a new navigation once these exercises, dubbed Joint Sword 24A, conclude in the coming days.

*Photographs used for illustrative purposes.

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