China launches first indigenously built aircraft carrier, to be commissioned before 2020

"The launch of the new aircraft carrier is primarily a symbolic event because it will take about two years for the vessel to be equipped and to make its first real tests overboard", according to Juliette Genevaz, a China researcher at the France-based Military School Strategic Research Institute. It is not expected to enter service until 2020.

Where: China built the new carrier in the Dalian Shipyard in Liaoning province. China confirmed its existence in late 2015.

"It's probably been created to just get China in the aircraft carrier game, and while this design was just an incremental advance (on the Liaoning), with the next carrier, which could already be under construction, it will be much closer to a USA carrier", he said.

State television showed the carrier, its deck lined in red flags, being pushed by tug boats into its berth.

Mr Fan Changlong, a vice-chairman of China's powerful Central Military Commission, presided over the ceremony, Xinhua said, during which a bottle of champagne was broken on the bow. A side-by-side comparison prepared by Forbes shows that American carriers can launch nearly three times as many aircraft as the Chinese models, using electromagnetic catapults instead of the "ski jump" ramp.

It will be China's second aircraft carrier, joining an existing one commissioned in 2012 which was refurbished out of a Soviet vessel bought from Ukraine.

It is expected to be closer in size to the U.S. Navy's nuclear-powered 100,000-ton Nimitz-class ships.

This new carrier will be "just enough different from the Liaoning that the PLAN will enjoy minimal benefits-if any-and no synergism from having two similarly-designed ships", according to a USA aircraft carrier design specialist who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon.

Beijing is locked in disagreements with its neighbors over who controls the South China Sea.

The South China Morning Post quoted one saying "we are so patriotic in vain".

The new vessel still lags behind its United States counterparts technologically, but senior fellow at Sydney's Lowy Institute Sam Roggeveen told CNN it is likely just a "stepping stone" to China's next generation of aircraft carriers. The warship created to accommodate up to 36 fighter jets is a source of great pride for many Chinese, and marks the country's entry into the elite group of countries including Russian Federation and the U.S.to have built one of the massive warships. Defence analysts at military- affiliated research groups have told state media that the country needs at least three more such carriers. "So, China has been significantly increasing its output of vessels that will be in a position to defend its aircraft carriers", Neill says.

But China has been modernising its armed forces recently as its economy expands.

"Given that the Americans have global obligations and responsibilities but China doesn't, then effectively by that point they would be evenly matched", Roggeveen said.

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 USA military prominence in the region.

China on Wednesday launched the first aircraft carrier the country has built entirely on its own, in a demonstration of the growing technical sophistication of its defense industries and determination to safeguard its maritime territorial claims and trade routes.

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