In an incredibly high-profile ceremony with the nation’s leaders and military elite in attendance, China showed the world its very first aircraft carrier on Tuesday. The launch of the vessel marks the latest round of muscle-flexing by the Chinese military, as tensions continue to grow between Beijing and neighboring countries over a number of nearby islands.
According to Chinese officials speaking during the launch ceremony, the carrier will be used to protect the sovereignty of the country. However, despite an undeniably triumphant atmosphere at the launch of the carrier – a Ukrainian vessel bought and subsequently refurbished by China – the country will only be using its new asset for testing and training purposes.
The carries bears the number “16” on the side, which confirms that it is for use only as a training vessel, according to military experts. At present, the Chinese military also does not own any planes with the ability to land on the newly launch carrier, with all carrier-landing training continuing to take place on land.
Regardless of its limitations in terms of military operations and defense, the launch of the carrier was nonetheless hugely successful in boosting patriotism and pride, which have been called into question increasingly over recent weeks as the China-Japan dispute continues over islands in the East China Sea.
The vessel is to “raise the overall operational strength of the Chinese Navy” and “to effectively protect national sovereignty, security and development interests,” according to the Chinese Ministry of Defense.
On an international level, the high-profile and hugely-publicized launch of the new carrier heralded a deliberate effort to remind China’s smaller neighbors in the South China Sea that the country’s military assets are growing in both strength and abundance at ferocious pace.
In the US however, military officials have spoken about the general lack of significance the launch of the carrier realistically holds, stating that the vessel is essentially 100% useless as a tool for the Chinese Navy.
Further military leaders around the world seem to have agreed with the sentiments of the US.
Until now, pilots from the Chinese military have carried out carrier-landing drills on purpose-built concrete strips, using 25 year-old J8 aircraft. As such, Chins is currently without the necessary aircraft or sufficiently-trained pilots to carry out complicated aircraft carrier landings.
How quickly China progresses in its pursuit of carrier-landing able aircraft will most likely dictate whether or not the country goes ahead with the construction of its own aircraft carrier – a project some in the West have stated would be an extravagant waste of money.
By contrast of course, military leaders in China have repeatedly argued that the launch of the carrier represents a new era for the country’s Naval efforts, heralding the beginning of a new operational structure and style.