China’s first domestically constructed aircraft carrier is slated to take on the high seas for the first time within the next three weeks. The Shandong will be the second aircraft carrier to join the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s rapidly growing fleet.
The PLAN’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, was built abroad in 1985, so the Shandong offers commanders a significantly modernized carrier. The natively built ship promises to be a major source of national pride. The vessel’s construction has taken place in Dalian, a city approximately nine hours drive from Beijing.
“We won’t keep the public waiting for too long,” Sr. Col. Wu Qian told reporters on March 30 in Beijing.
Expect to see the Type 001A Shandong officially commissioned on April 23 — a date marking the 68th anniversary of PLAN.
A report from the Diplomat suggests that while Shandong is 32 years newer, it won’t be much bigger. It will displace 65,000 tons of water, compared with Liaoning’s 60,000.
When China increases military investment, a significant portion of new spending tends to be allocated toward expanding China’s maritime presence. The PLAN has "really been the beneficiary of a lot of this new spending in the past 15 years," according to expert Richard Bitzinger, a fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.
The Liaoning’s new sea voyaging partner could be a small sign of things to come. "It is hard to recall growth at a similar pace in any navy across history … Beijing is slowly pulling ahead," according to Peter Roberts of the Royal United Services Institute, a UK-based think tank.
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