China to commission first aircraft carrier
Beijing: China`s first aircraft carrier is likely to be commissioned on August 1 and deployed in the disputed South China Sea, boosting its blue water aspirations. "The military authority plans to let the aircraft carrier be commissioned this year," Deputy Commander of Chinese navy Xu Hongmeng said. The yet to be named carrier has taken part in four sea trials in the Pacific since August last year, Shanghai Daily quoted Xu as saying.
Chinese Defence Ministry spokesman said previously that the carrier would be used mainly for scientific research and training pilots for future carriers.
Analysts say its deployment in the disputed waters of SCS whose oil rich islands were claimed by China and number of ASEAN countries could stir up more tensions in the region.
China apparently was in a hurry to deploy to counter United States big Asia Pacific push strategy rallying countries that have a maritime disputes with Beijing. Since 1985, China has acquired four retired aircraft carriers for study, the Australian HMAS Melbourne and the ex-Soviet carriers Minsk, Kiev and Varyag.
The carrier is built upon the unfinished former Soviet aircraft carrier Varyag and is believed to be the first of the three being planned to acquired by the Chinese navy.
Experts believe China is in the early stages of building a "blue water" navy in order to challenge American global supremacy at sea. Photographs posted online have shown aircraft and helicopters landing on the deck of the carrier in the port of Dalian in northeast China.
Significantly China will be deploying the J-15 fighters, stated to be home made variant of Russia`s Su-33 to operate from the carrier. Like its hull, China reportedly procured a prototype of the Su-33 from Ukraine and since then developed its own version with advanced features.
But it is unclear how China plans to manage the engines of the aircraft as it still imports them from Russia and Ukraine. Military experts regard J-15 as the most ideal aircraft for the carrier, took part in short-distance take-off and landing exercises late last year, the Beijing-based Legal Evening News reported.
The vessel will be capable of carrying around 30 fighters and helicopters and carry a crew of around 2,000, the report said. The Admiral Kuznetsov class aircraft carrier was bought from Ukraine in 1998 as an empty shell and has been refitted for its role as a research and training platform.
China claims all weapons and radar systems and other equipment on board were made locally. The news of the carrier deployment follows a week after China announced hefty USD 106.4 billion defence budget this year.
Many western defence analysts say that China spends far more on defence than it actually revealed. According to recent report put out by IHS Jane`s Defence & Security Intelligence & Analysis, China`s military spending is set to double by 2015 touching USD 238.2 billion.