China's first aircraft carrier will get its first test on the high seas, as officials announced that Beijing will get a second, and even third, carrier soon, Chinese state media reported.
The carrier Liaoning, which has been testing and training at Qingdao naval base in east China, is ready for its maiden ocean voyage, Col. Yang Yujun, a spokesman for the Ministry of National Defense, said at a briefing for reporters. He did not give a date or a location.
"When and in what waters the voyage will be conducted will be decided in accordance with overall conditions," reported official news agency Xinhua.
The Liaoning, which the People's Liberation Army Navy built on the chassis of a Russian-made carrier Beijing bought from Ukraine a decade ago, displaces 50,000 tonnes and will carry up to 30 airplanes, according to Xinhua. It was commissioned last September.
Chinese naval officials say they are building a naval aviation force for the Liaoning, which will include fighter jets, reconnaissance aircraft, anti-submarine and electronic warfare planes and helicopters.
The carrier is part of the PLA's plan for a "blue water" ocean-going navy that can project Chinese military power across the Pacific region.
At a reception for foreign military attaches this week, Rear Adm Song Xue, the PLA Navy's deputy chief of staff, said that China would in due course have "more than one aircraft carrier."
"The next aircraft carrier we need will be larger and carry more fighters," he said, according to Xinhua.
But Adm. Song said foreign media reports that China was building two new aircraft carriers in Shanghai were not accurate.
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