Thanks to new images released by Open Source Intelligence (OSINT), it’s been revealed that in recent days, the third aircraft carrier of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) of China, the Fujian (CV-18), began a new system test at sea, suggesting it’s its second navigation recorded so far in May.

As part of the significant progress that the Fujian has been making since its launch and readiness in port at the end of April, the Chinese Navy seems to be showing that its third aircraft carrier is making steady progress towards its future commissioning. The first signs of this progress emerged in early May when images circulated on social media showing the new aircraft carrier leaving the Jiangnan shipyard to conduct its initial navigation tests. After an eight-day voyage, the People’s Liberation Army Navy successfully concluded its first navigation and system tests at sea, aiming to achieve Initial Operational Capability.

However, it’s important to note that this second possible test is part of the significant deployment made by the Chinese Air Force and Navy around the island of Taiwan and its surrounding islands last week. These exercises, under the name Joint Sword 2024A, attracted worldwide attention due to the large number of assets deployed for simulated attacks, among other activities. What’s noteworthy is that the images and announcements circulating about the Fujian place it on the same date as the exercise.

During this second navigation, it is expected that the Fujian will evaluate systems that were already tested during the first navigation, such as navigation and power generation systems, identifying strengths and weaknesses. However, no checks and tests with aircraft or mockups on the flight deck have been recorded yet, so it could be expected that this would occur on this occasion. Earlier, new images had been recorded with scale models or full-scale replicas of some of the aircraft that would constitute its future Carrier Air Wing (CVW). While these aircraft are still in the development and testing phase, the third Chinese aircraft carrier could be equipped, thanks to its new electromagnetic catapults and recovery systems, with the J-15B (compatible with CATOBAR systems) and stealthy J-35, in addition to embarked early warning aircraft KJ-600.

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