Chinese Aircraft Carrier to Begin Official Duty Soon

Posted March 13th, 2012 at 6:10 am (UTC-5)
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A high-ranking Chinese navy officer says the country's first aircraft carrier will officially be placed into service later this year.

The China Daily newspaper quotes Deputy Commander Xu Hongmeng on Tuesday saying the military “has a plan” to put the Soviet-built vessel into active duty, but did not go into details.

China bought the vessel from Ukraine in 1998, and has put the refitted ship through four sea trials since its maiden voyage last year. The newspaper quotes media reports saying the warship is currently equipped with life-size model planes.

China Daily says it learned Monday from Rear Admiral Cao Dongshen that the new aircraft carrier will not be deployed as part of a single fixed fleet, but will keep traveling. Cao says the carrier will mainly conduct experiments, training and scientific research.

China's push to build up its naval forces has been accompanied by a major diplomatic dispute with Japan over islands in the East China Sea, as well as disputes with Vietnam and the Philippines over oil and gas exploration in the South China Sea.