Aircraft carrier enters active service

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China's first aircraft carrier "Liaoning" officially entered service Tuesday, making China the 10th country in the world to have such a vessel in active service.

China's first aircraft carrier was delivered and commissioned to the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy, Sept 25, 2012. [Photo/Xinhua]

China's first aircraft carrier was delivered and commissioned to the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy, Sept 25, 2012. [Photo/Xinhua]

The Ministry of National Defense said the carrier, Liaoning, would "raise the overall operational strength of the Chinese navy."

According to the Central Military Commission, the aircraft carrier will continue to be used for scientific research purposes, as well as military training. It would be used to master the technology for more advanced carriers and to train personnel on how to operate such a craft in a battle group and with vessels from other nation's navies, said retired Rear Admiral Yang Yi.

"When China has a more balanced and powerful navy, the regional situation will be more stable as various forces that threaten regional peace will no longer dare to act rashly," Yang said.

Zhang Zheng, a 43-year-old senior colonel in the navy and a former student of military academies in the UK, has been named the Liaoning's commanding officer. Zhang, who was born in east China's Zhejiang Province, is a former frigate and destroyer commander.

Some 98 percent of the crew have bachelor degrees or above, Mei Wen, the newly appointed commissar of the carrier, told China News Service yesterday. "The advanced military weaponry needs high-quality talent," Mei said. Many of the crew are female, doing the same work as the men.

The Liaoning was refitted from the former Soviet navy's unfinished Varyag after the Admiral Kuznetsov class carrier was bought from Ukraine in 1998 as an empty shell.

Renamed Liaoning after the northeastern province where it underwent a 10-year refurbishment program, it began sea trials in August 2011. All weapons and radar systems and other equipment on board were made in China.

So far, 10 trial runs of the aircraft carrier have tested its propulsion, communications and navigation systems. Chinese military analysts also believe that launching and recovering fixed-wing aircraft at sea, a complicated procedure, had also taken place during the trials.

Military officials and experts have said the aircraft carrier could soon be accompanied by destroyers and frigates to form an aircraft carrier fleet with combat abilities.

China's J-15 fighters that analysts say are match for US F-18 Hornets would probably be used on the carrier as many photographs have been published showing the plane on the carrier's deck.

The carrier is also equipped with a defense system capable of launching attacks on missiles, aircraft and approaching vessels, said Song Zhongping, a military commentator. He estimated the ship will carry around 30 Chinese J-15 fighters and helicopters and have a crew of about 2,000.

Xu Xiaoyan, a People's Liberation Army lieutenant general, has said China will need at least three aircraft carriers.

Major General Luo Yuan, a researcher with the PLA's Military Science Academy, said: "It is fully possible for China to build more aircraft carriers based on the country's economic power."

(Shanghai Daily contributed to the story.)

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