China launches its first homegrown aircraft carrier

China's first domestically developed aircraft carrier is launched in Dalian, Liaoning Province, Wednesday. The Liaoning was commissioned into the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy in 2012, Xinhua reported.

China reportedly began development work on the aircraft carrier in November 2013 and took almost five years to complete it.

Development of the new carrier began in 2013 and construction commenced in late 2015. At present, the main hull of this aircraft carrier has been completed and the main system devices including power supply have been installed in place. The new carrier launch in China may result in a competition to acquire greater military capabilities in the region.

General Fan Changlong, vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission, took part in the launch ceremony at a shipyard in the northeastern coastal city.

According to Chinese reports, the new carrier will have 24 Shenyang J-15 fighters, based on the Russian Sukhoi Su-33, along with 12 helicopters for anti-submarine warfare and early-warning and rescue operations.

The AP runs through an all-star Chinese military and political guest list for the ceremony, ominously including Vice Admiral Shen Jinlong, "a former commander of the South Sea Fleet responsible for defending China's claim to virtually the entire South China Sea".

Still, the new ship has likely helped China learn about shipbuilding and it already has plans for a third carrier.

China's second aircraft carrier is expected to be formally commissioned before 2020, after conducing sea trials and the arrival of its full air complement.

Putting the carrier into water marked progress in China's efforts to design and build a domestic aircraft carrier. These carriers do not, however, possess the catapult technology the US carriers have and which is used to launch aircraft.

But the government has said the new carrier's design draws on experiences from its first carrier, the Liaoning, bought second-hand from Ukraine in 1998 and refitted in China.

On the contrary, India struggles to finish the construction of its home-grow aircraft carrier, the Vikrant.

China's second aircraft carrier in Dalian, Liaoning province.

Most experts agree that developing such a force will be a decades-long endeavor but the launch of the second carrier holds a certain prestige value for Beijing, seen by many analysts as keen to eventually erode US military prominence in the region.

That's the kind of power that China wants - and that's why we haven't seen the last Chinese aircraft carrier rolling off the production line in the Dalian shipyard.

  • Leroy Wright