China adds to naval force with domestic aircraft carrier

China cracked a bottle of champagne on the hull of their second aircraft carrier on Wednesday as it took to the seas for the first time as part of a massive push to modernize its navy and imitate the power-projection capabilities of the US Navy.

China's first aircraft carrier, a refitted Soviet-era vessel called the Liaoning, was commissioned into the People's Liberation Army Navy in 2012.

While the ship is still far from being operational, the launch "signifies major progress for our country's indigenous design and construction of aircraft carriers", the PLA said in a statement, "Aircraft carriers are still the most operationally powerful and worthwhile platforms at sea", the PLA explained in an earlier statement.

"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 country's first carrier), with the next carrier, which could already be under construction, it will be much closer to a USA carrier", he said.

The launch comes as the rising tension over the Korean peninsula and Beijing's belligerence in the South China Sea show no signs of cooling down.

The Chinese government claimed that the new carrier was entirely home built although there were reports that it may be based on the design of the first one, which was bought from Russian Federation.

After the launch, the new carrier will undergo equipment debugging, outfitting and comprehensive mooring trials.

India, along with Japan and Taiwan which also view Chinese carriers as threats, will likely respond by building new submarines and anti-ship missiles, said Mr Ian Easton, a research fellow at the United States think-tank Project 2049 Institute.

It has a ski jump-style deck for taking off and a conventional oil-fuelled steam turbine power plant.

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But unlike the nuclear-powered US carriers, both the new carrier and the Liaoning have ski-jump bows that borrow from the Soviet design.

After all, none of the major regional powers own vessels that match up to China's two carriers.

The Liaoning conducted its first live-fire drill in December before heading to the South China Sea, raising concerns in Taiwan and neighbouring countries, such as Japan and Vietnam, which have overlapping territorial claims with China in the East and South China Sea.

Here is what the Chinese media reported about the still unnamed aircraft carrier.

The new carrier is touted as a significant upgrade from the Liaoning, which was built more than 25 years ago and is a refurbished ship from the days of the Soviet Union. However, according to experts, they lack the powerful catapult technology for launching aircraft - an advanced technology that USA carriers use.

"China is building a blue-water navy for the long term: not just the carriers themselves, but the auxiliary ships to supply them and the warships to protect them", he said in an e-mail.

Fan Changlong, vice chairman of China's Central Military Commission, presided over a ceremony for the launch of the Shandong on Wednesday in the northeastern port of Dalian.

The ship will accommodate more J-15 fighter jets, carry China's most advanced S-band radar and feature four batteries of HQ-10 short-range air-defence missiles, Mr Ni said.