26 April 2017

China Launches Its First Aircraft Carrier Built at Home

Chris Buckley, “China Launches Its First Aircraft Carrier Built at Home,” New York Times, 25 April 2017.

BEIJING — China’s first domestically built aircraft carrier slipped into the sea for the first time on Wednesday, … a milestone in President Xi Jinping’s drive to extend China’s military reach far beyond its shores.

Senior military and government officials watched as a champagne bottle was smashed on the bow and as the 1,033-foot gray hull of the carrier eased into the water at Dalian… Chinese military news media reported. …

It is far from ready for operations, but the launch “signified a major stage of progress of our country’s indigenous design and construction of aircraft carriers,” a news bulletin from the People’s Liberation Army said. It said the carrier would undergo more testing and fitting of equipment before trials in the water. …

The Chinese Navy is at the heart of Mr. Xi’s military plans. In addition to aircraft carriers, China has been building other vessels that could support and shield them on missions, said Andrew S. Erickson, a professor at the United States Naval War College and editor of a new book on Chinese naval shipbuilding.

“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 email. Other ships built or under construction include a new type of supply vessel, as well as four cruisers suited for escorting a carrier, Mr. Erickson said. ….