Islamabad: China’s Defence Ministry said on Wednesday that the country is refitting an imported aircraft carrier for the purposes of scientific research and training. “China is making use of an old aircraft carrier platform for scientific research, experiments and training,” said Geng Yansheng, a ministry spokesman, at a regular press conference, says a press release received today from Beijing.
The refit project marks the first official confirmation that China is pursuing an aircraft carrier program.
“The warship is still seaworthy, as it has been docked at sea for some time.
The time for its first sea trial will depend on the refitting schedule,” said Geng.
“As an important part of the research and training programme, training for carrier-borne aircraft pilots is also in progress,” he said.
The spokesman said that the pursuit of an aircraft carrier program will not change the navy’s inshore defense strategy and the defensive nature of country’s national defence policy.
Before selling the vessel to China in 1998, the Ukraine disarmed it and removed its engines.
The carrier was originally built by the Soviet Union, which failed to complete the ship’s construction before collapsing in 1991.The research and training project embodies the capability of China’s defense technology and will promote the modernization of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the spokesman said.
Geng said the necessity of acquiring an aircraft carrier for China came from the fact that the country has a very long coastline and a large amount of territorial waters.
China has more than 18,000 kilometers of coast line and 3 million square kilometers of territorial waters.
From the First Opium War in 1840 to the foundation of the People’s Republic in 1949, China suffered more than 470 offenses and invasions that came from the seas.
However, Geng insisted that the timing to reveal information on China’s aircraft carrier had nothing to do with the current South China Sea situation.
The still-unnamed warship is scheduled to receive final adjustments at a shipyard in the port city of Dalian in northeast China’s Liaoning Province before embarking on its maiden voyage.
Video footage and pictures acquired by Xinhua show construction facilities on the carrier’s deck. The ship’s rusty hull has been repainted with the navy blue shade used by the PLA.
Wednesday’s official confirmation ended years of speculation, doubt and dreams regarding China acquiring an aircraft carrier.
Once the refit is complete, China will become the last of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council to own an operational carrier.
Currently, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, Spain, Italy, India, Brazil and Thailand, operate a total of 21 active-service aircraft carriers.
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