China state media reported Tuesday that the country’s first aircraft carrier is prepared for combat, as the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) looks to bolster its presence in the region and abroad.
The state-run Global Times said the aircraft carrier Liaoning, named for her Chinese home province, has “formally been described as having a real combat capacity,” and Li Dongyou, the Liaoning’s political commissar, was quoted as saying the ship is “constantly prepared for war.”
Li remarked, “As a military force, we are always prepared for war and our combat capacity also needs to be tested by war … At this moment, we are doing our best to promote our strength and use it to prevent war, and are prepared for actual combat at any time.”
The 60,000-ton vessel was purchased from Ukraine in 1998 as an incomplete Soviet Navy hull, and was formally commissioned to be completed in 2012. Beijing is also in the process of building the first indigenous aircraft carrier which will be able to house up to ten rotary wing aircraft, including the Harbin Z-9, Changshe Z-18 and Ka-31 helicopters, along with 24 Shenyang J-15 multirole fighter jets. Three senior US military officers, 30th and the 31st Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert, Admiral John M. Richardson and 24th US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, have visited the Liaoning in the past.
According to China Power, the blog for the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank analyzed the vessel saying, “Although its overall capability is hindered by its comparatively inefficient power plant and underpowered aircraft-launching system, the Liaoning represents an important step in advancing China’s ability to project naval power.”
While Beijing has not announced plans for the Liaoning, some have posited that the ship will help beef up Chinese forces in the hotly-disputed South China Sea, an area where some $5 trillion in trade transits annually and in which China has reclaimed over 3,200 acres of land. China rejected a recent decision by the Hague to deny their land claims in the South China Sea, with the country’s officials media outlet, Xinhua calling the ruling “ill-founded” and “naturally null and void.”