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China’s first home-built aircraft carrier begins sea trials

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BEIJING — China’s first domestically developed aircraft carrier began sea trials Sunday, state media said, Beijing’s latest milestone in efforts to modernise its military footprint.

The still-unnamed ship left dock in the northern port of Dalian at 7:00am, the Defence Ministry said in a statement.

The official Xinhua news agency confirmed the ship had left for trials with a short announcement.”Our second aircraft carrier set sail from its dock in the Dalian shipyard for relevant waters to conduct a sea trial mission, to inspect and verify the reliability and stability of mechanical systems and other equipment,” Xinhua said.

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The carrier was launched this time last year but since then has been undergoing weapons fitting and work on other systems and has not yet entered service.

Chinese military experts have told state media that the carrier is not expected to enter service until 2020, once it has been fully kitted out and armed. But the government has said the new carrier’s design draws on experiences from the country’s first carrier, the Liaoning, which was bought second-hand from Ukraine in 1998 and refitted in China.

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Syria ‘accidentally shot down’ Russian spy plane during Israeli attack

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Russia’s defence ministry said one of its military surveillance aircraft with 14 people on board disappeared from radar screens over the Mediterranean at the same time as Israeli and French forces were mounting aerial attacks on targets in Syria.

“Connection has been lost with the crew of a Russian Il-20 plane over the Mediterranean Sea,” the ministry said. Contact was lost at about 23:00 local time (20:00 GMT) on Monday, it added.

There are conflicting reports as to who is responsible for the downing of the aircraft, however the US claims it was accidentally shot down by the Syrian regime’s anti-aircraft artillery after the Syrians came under fire by Israeli missiles.

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A US official said Washington believed the aircraft, the turbo-prop plane used for electronic reconnaissance, was inadvertently shot down by anti-aircraft artillery operated by Moscow’s ally, the Syrian Government.

Russsia’s Defence Ministry said the aircraft was returning to the Russian-run Hmeymim airbase in Latakia province when it disappeared from radar screens at about 11:00pm Moscow time.

The plane was over the Mediterranean Sea about 35 kilometres from the Syrian coastline, Russia’s TASS news agency quoted the ministry as saying in a statement.

The fate of the 14 people on board the missing plane is unknown, and a rescue operation has been organised out of the Hmeymim base, the ministry said.

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