The ship, a modified Kuznetsov-class design, is China’s first domestically built aircraft carrier.
The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) commissioned into service the new Type 002 aircraft carrier on December 17, 2019 in presence of President Xi Jinping. The ship, which has been named Shandong and given hull number 17, is China’s first domestically built aircraft carrier and was developed from their first carrier, the Liaoning, which is in turn a refitted Kuznetsov-class carrier bought second-hand from Ukraine in 1998.
The commissioning ceremony took place at a naval base in Sanya, South China’s Hainan Province, where is expected to be based. This move will give the carrier a quick access to the South China Sea where there are currently territorial disputes between China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei, involving both maritime boundaries and islands.
The badge of CV17 SHANDONG. pic.twitter.com/6euCZivvp3
— dafeng cao (@dafengcao) December 17, 2019
The construction of the ship began in 2013 at the Dalian Shipyard, North-East China Liaoning Province, contracted to the No.701 Research Institute of the state-owned China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC). After being launched in April 2017, the carrier underwent a trial phase which took longer than expected, with the first sea trial in May 2018, and the commissioning originally planned in April 2019 had to be postponed.
The Shandong is a conventional-powered aircraft carrier with an approximate displacement, according to most sources, ranging between 40,000 to 60,000 tons. Like the Liaoning, the carrier features a Short Take-Off Barrier Arrested Landing (STOBAR) configuration with the embarked aircraft taking off with the help of a ski-jump, rather than using a catapult like the US aircraft carriers, and landing by catching the arrestor wires.
According to Chinese media, the Shandong, built taking in account the operational feedback from the Liaoning, is equipped with an optimized layout and more advanced radar and Command and Control (C2) systems. The ship can reportedly carry 36 Shenyang J-15 fighter jets, more than the 24 carried by the Liaoning.
With the commissioning of the Shandong, China has now two aircraft carriers, of which the older one devoted to training, and according to some sources started building a third one that could use a catapult launch system. This expansion of the fleet reflects the modernization of the Chinese Armed Forces in the last few years as the country aims to expand its economic and military influence in the area.