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China's first homemade aircraft carrier ready for completion in record time

Codenamed Type 001A, the aircraft carrier will be second with the PLA Navy - after the Liaoning, and the first to be built at home. Officials say speed and quality of construction are both equal highlights of the sea fortress.

China's first homemade aircraft carrier ready for completion in record time
File photo of Liaoning. (Courtesy: Video released on Chinese social media website Weibo)

China's determination to modernise its military can best be seen from how aggressively it has pushed the construction of its first-ever homemade aircraft carrier - codenamed Type 001A. The massive ship is reportedly ready for sea trials and may be inducted in the PLA Navy by the end of this year.

According to state-owned Global Times, the aircraft carrier - being built at the Dalian Shipbuilding Industry Company (DSIC) is currently being prepared for sea trials which last anywhere between six and 12 months. Other local reports in China have quoted DSIC Chairman Liu Zheng as saying that the equipment and devices on board the ship are in the joint debugging stage and that the 'main engine has been powered.' These developments further confirm that a sea trial is round the corner - making the Type 001A one of the fastest aircraft carriers to be built.

First launched on April 26 of 2017 and the sea trial may be officially launched on April 23  as part of China's Navy Day. The speed of construction may well be remarkable but officials also point out the quality of construction as one of the main highlights of Type 001A. "The quality of our construction is also world-class. For example, the world-class standard for the flatness of the flight deck is not more than 4 percent, and we made it lower than 3 percent," Liu told certain members of the Chinese press.

Naming the carrier has also been a matter of intense speculation in China. Several social media users in the country have suggested that it should be called 'Taiwan' while others say it should be named 'Shi Lang' - an admiral believed to have re-captured Taiwan during the reign of Qing Dynasty.  Security analysts say, however, that the suggestions are not meant to antagonise people of Taiwan and that the final name would likely follow the pattern of naming ships after Chinese provinces and municipalities.

Whatever be the name, the fact that the Type 001A is ready for sea trials is being seen as a testament to a country in top gear towards not just modernising its military but doing so at home. Currently, the country only has a solitary aircraft carrier - Liaoning - in service. Commissioned in 2012, the Liaoning was originally constructed for the Soviet Army in 1980s before being put up for sale by Ukraine. It is mostly used by the PLA Navy for training purposes. Introduction of another aircraft carrier is expected to ring alarm bells to varying degrees in Japan, the United States and even India - all countries with at least one aircraft carrier.