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Posted on: Beijing Bulletin, Thursday, April27th, 2017
In grand style, China, on Wednesday unveiled its first domestically built, aircraft carrier, in the port city of Dalian.
The Ministry of National Defense said that the 50,000-ton carrier was towed from its dockyard just after 9 a.m. Wednesday following a ceremony in Dalian.
The carrier, based on the Soviet Kuznetsov class design has a ski jump-style deck for taking off and boasts of a conventional oil-fueled steam turbine power plant.
The yet unnamed carrier will carry 24 Shenyang J-15 fighters, based on the Russian Sukhoi Su-33, along with 12 helicopters for anti-submarine warfare.
However, those aspects, experts have noted will limit the weight of the payloads its planes can carry, its speed and the amount of time it can spend at sea compared to the American nuclear-powered carriers.
The country’s Defense Ministry has said that with the main hull of the new carrier completed and its power supply put into place – now mooring tests are lined up along with the process of debugging of its electronic systems.
The launch of the carrier comes just three days after the anniversary of the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s symbolic founding in 1949.
The event on Wednesday was attended by the vice-chairman of China’s Central Military Commission and Communist Party Central Committee, Fan Changlong and navy commander Vice Adm. Shen Jinlong, a former commander of the South Sea Fleet responsible for defending China’s claim to virtually the entire South China Sea.
According to reports, the launch saw a bottle of champagne being broken across the ship’s bow with other crafts in the port, sounding their horns in celebration.
Demonstrating the growing technical sophistication of its defense industries and determination to safeguard its maritime territorial claims and crucial trade routes – Chinese officials said that they are expecting the carrier to be formally commissioned sometime before 2020.
Development of the new carrier began in 2013 and construction began in late 2015.
It will undergo sea trials and await the arrival of its full air complement.
The carrier also displays China’s efforts towards expanding its naval supremacy.
According to the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Naval Analysis, China’s plans to expand its navy include having about 265-273 warships, submarines and logistics vessels by 2020.
China’s primary rival in the Asia-Pacific, the U.S. Navy currently has 275 deployable battle force ships.
Further, America operates 10 aircraft carriers, has 62 destroyers to China’s 32, and 75 submarines to China’s 68.
The U.S. Navy has 323,000 personnel to China’s 235,000.
The country is said to be planning to build at least two or four additional carriers.
One of them named the Type 002 is reportedly already under construction at a shipyard outside Shanghai.
The new ones, experts believe will be closer in size to the U.S. Navy’s nuclear-powered 100,000-ton Nimitz class ships, with flat flight decks and catapults to allow planes to launch with more bombs and fuel aboard.
The country has however maintained that it follows a defensive military policy.
According to Michael Chase, an expert on the Chinese military at U.S. think tank the RAND Corporation, Chinese naval strategists see the carrier program not only as a means to protect their country’s maritime interests, but also to have “naval power commensurate with China’s international status, to impress both external and domestic audiences.”
Chase added that the new carrier “is likely to be seen as further evidence of China’s desire to become the most powerful and influential country in the region.”
Adding, “That will be especially worrying to Indian security analysts who are already concerned about Beijing’s ambitions in the Indian Ocean.”
India, Japan and Taiwan all view Chinese carriers as threats.
Ian Easton, a research Fellow at The Project 2049 Institute in Arlington, Virginia believes that all the three nations will likely respond by building new submarines and anti-ship missiles.
Easton said, China’s “expansionist behavior in the South China Sea and its aggressive efforts to undermine the security of Taiwan and Japan, in particular, have translated into a situation where few countries now trust that Beijing has benign motives.”
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman GengShuang, however, has stressed that China maintains a purely defense military posture and “sticks to the path of peaceful development.”
Addressing a news conference, Geng said, “The purpose to develop national defense forces including the navy is to safeguard our national sovereignty, security and development interests, as well as the peace of the world.”