In pictures: aircraft carrier body refitted for research, training
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|Spokesman of China's Defense Ministry Geng Yansheng speaks on a press conference in Beijing, capital of China, July 27, 2011. China's Defense Ministry said on Wednesday that the country is making use of an imported aircraft carrier body for refitting to be used for scientific research, experiment and training. (Xinhua/Li Gang)
BEIJING, July 27 (Xinhua) -- China's Defense Ministry said on Wednesday that the country is refitting an imported aircraft carrier body for the purposes of scientific research and training.
"China is making use of an old aircraft carrier platform for scientific research, experiment and training," said Geng Yansheng, a ministry spokesman, at a regular press conference.
The project marks the first official confirmation that China is pursuing an aircraft carrier program of its own.
"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 program, training for 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.
The vessel is an empty aircraft carrier shell purchased from Ukraine. Ukraine disarmed it and removed its engines before selling it to China.
The craft was originally built by the former 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.
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 showed construction facilities on the carrier's deck. The ship's rusty hull has been repainted with the navy blue shade used by the PLA.
The reconstruction of the aircraft carrier is a long-term project and will have a long way to go before the warship can become operational, Geng said.
"Both overestimation and underestimation of China's future aircraft carrier have been wrong," Geng said.
Wednesday's official confirmation ended years of speculation, doubt and dreams regarding China's acquirement of an aircraft carrier.
Once the refitting is completed, the aircraft carrier will make China the last of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council to own a carrier.
The spokesman did not give further details about the carrier. However, Chinese military experts have provided a more detailed picture of the ship and its capabilities.
The carrier has a displacement of nearly 60,000 metric tons, putting it in the same class as Russia's commissioned carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, said Cao Weidong, a researcher with the PLA Navy's Academic Research Institute.
It is a conventionally-powered medium-sized carrier that will be equipped with indigenous Chinese engines, ship-borne aircraft, radar and other hardware, Cao said.
Fixed-wing aircraft on the carrier will use a ski-jump to take off of the vessel, instead of a catapult system, after the refitting is completed, Cao said.