China launches 1st domestically-made aircraft carrier

Advising India to focus more on its economy instead of building aircraft carrier, the state-run Chinese media today said that New Delhi should not lose direction in its eagerness to counter China's growing influence in the Indian Ocean.

It is China's second aircraft carrier, coming after the Liaoning, a refitted Soviet Union-made carrier that was put into commission in the Chinese Navy in 2012.

The new carrier is expected to be formally commissioned by around 2020, following sea trials.

"The launch of the new aircraft carrier is primarily a symbolic event because it will take about two years for the vessel to be equipped and to make its first real tests overboard", according to Juliette Genevaz, China researcher at the France-based Military School Strategic Research Institute.

The main body of the carrier has been completed, with equipment of the the major systems installed.

A launch ceremony was held at 9 a.m.at the Dalian yard of China Shipbuilding Industry, the agency reported.

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"The scaffolding around the ship, temporarily named the Type 001A, was removed and the deck was cleared", Shanghai-based news portal thepaper.cn reported, indicating the unveiling is likely to be done soon though it could not happen on Sunday because of low tides. That compares to 85-90 fixed wing aircraft and helicopters carried by a Nimitz-class carrier.

Nevertheless, Genevaz said, it is a "technological leap" for China as it signals the development of more native aircraft carriers in the future.

CSIS has compiled a list of key facts and comparisons on the Type 001A, stating that the new carrier has some notable enhancements and "represents an important step in China's developing aircraft carrier program". China's primary security objective is to safeguard its interests in the South China Sea, East China Sea and Yellow Sea against regional contenders, such as the U.S. China's aim is to defend its trade, access to natural resources, and build a buffer against perceived U.S. encroachment.

Analysts said the ship represented a "status symbol" for Beijing in a contested region but posed little threat to advanced USA carriers.

China yesterday celebrated 68th anniversary of the establishment of its navy amid massive expansion of its fleet.

The China Daily called the ship "the largest and most sophisticated surface vessel China has ever built".

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