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China launches first domestically built aircraft carrier
May 30 2017, 07:16 | Irvin Gilbert
It has more space than China's first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, a Soviet carrier that Beijing bought from an Ukrainian shipyard in 1998, and finally went into commission with the PLA Navy in 2012.
The aircraft carrier - the second in a planned fleet of as many as six such ships - was based on the design of the Liaoning, a Soviet vessel China bought from Ukraine, refitted and put to sea nearly six years ago.
Early on Wednesday morning it was towed from Dalian Shipyard, Liaoning, to a nearby wharf, China's Ministry of National Defense said. However, the carrier is not expected to enter active service until 2020.
Adorned with colorful ribbons, the Type 001A ship "transferred from dry dock into the water at a launch ceremony" in the northeastern port city of Dalian, according to the official broadcaster CCTV.
The Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC) J-15 and Changhe Aircraft Industries Corporation (CAIC) Z-18 are to be the PLAN's mainstay carrier-borne aircraft.
India, along with Japan and Taiwan which also view Chinese carriers as threats, will likely respond by building new submarines and anti-ship missiles, said Ian Easton, a research Fellow at The Project 2049 Institute in Arlington, Virginia.
China's first indigenously built aircraft carrier may launch any day now.
Aircraft carriers are seen as symbols of a nation's military might, but the construction of them consumes huge amounts of resources, thus requiring developing countries to learn how to keep their military ambitions in check.
It is far from ready for operations, but the launch "signified a major stage of progress of our country's indigenous design and construction of aircraft carriers", a news bulletin from the People's Liberation Army said. This is China's first Type 001A class carrier with a displacement of 50,000 metric tones which will serve as a base fighter jets, helicopters and a range of sea monitoring devices.
The Chinese government's military buildup has unsettled its neighbors and Washington, particularly as Beijing has taken a more robust stance in territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
Meanwhile, China's naval expansion is also fuelling a reported push for a five-fold expansion of the marine corps to as many as 100,000 troops.
The new carriers will replace the UK-built INS Viraat, formerly the world's longest-serving warship, which was decommissioned in March after spending almost 30 years in service in the Indian Navy.