After months of development, China officially launched its much anticipated aircraft carrier, the Associated Press reports today.Named the Liaoning, the ship has yet to carry any aircraft however. Building the planes and teaching pilots to launch them is a high priority, but it’s a complex process that will take some time to create and then to master.
The former Soviet flattop Varyag was languishing in a Ukraine shipyard when picked up for a song by the Chinese in 1998.
Since then, the Chinese have been hard at work coming up with the missing elements required to turn the ship into a fortress of the sea. The Varyag was missing the propulsion, navigation, and communication systems just to start with, and has been undergoing repeated sea trials over the past months to ensure just limited functionality.
Now that’s it’s officially commissioned, the Lianing’s first mission will be more training while it patrols China’s shoreline and surely lends a presence to the East China Sea and the dispute with Japan over a series of disputed islands.
Prior to the launch, China was the only of the permanent United Nations Security Council members to not have any carriers. The United States currently has 11 carriers spread across the world. though the USS Enterprise is on its last deployment and scheduled for decommission following its return to the states.
The Liaoning is the first in a series of three carriers the Chinese expect to roll out over the coming years, with the next two produced domestically based on the technological understanding they glean from their work with the former Varyag.
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