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China building 2nd aircraft carrier; hints at third one

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The Liaoning aircraft carrier of PLA Navy. A file photo

BEIJING (PTI): China on Tuesday said it is building a second aircraft carrier indigenously and hinted at plans to make a third one to enhance its blue water capabilities amid mounting tensions with the US in the disputed South China Sea.

China is designing and building its second aircraft carrier "completely on its own" in Dalian in north-eastern Liaoning Province, Defence Ministry spokesperson Colonel Yang Yujun said.

This carrier, with a displacement of 50,000 tonnes, will be a base for J-15 fighters and other types of aircraft, Yang told a monthly press briefing.

Blue water capabilities refer to an ability to carry out operations much farther than their territorial boundaries, across the deep oceans.

Fixed-wing aircraft on the carrier will use a ski-jump to take off. The carrier will have a conventional power plant, he said, indicating that it will not be a nuclear powered ship.

However, he has not given a time line when the second aircraft carrier will be ready.

The acknowledgement of the second aircraft carrier comes at a time when China is locked in a military tussle with the US over the South China Sea (SCS), where Washington and its allies refuse to recognise China's efforts to build artificial islands with military installations.

China, which claims the whole of SCS as its own, has vociferously protested the US naval ship and B-52 bombers navigating through the waters and airspace of the islands.

Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Taiwan have overlapping claims over various islands and shoals in the SCS.

Yang said the design and building of the second aircraft carrier is based on experience, research and training on the Liaoning -- the country's first aircraft carrier which is a refitted Russian-made carrier delivered to the Navy in 2012.

While confirming the second aircraft carrier, Yang also hinted at plans for China to build a third one.

"On the progress of the second aircraft carrier, it is being designed and constructed. As for future arrangements, it depends on the progress made in the current stage.

"As for the long term development of China's aircraft carriers, authorities will take into consideration various factors," Yang said, adding that China needs aircraft carriers as it has a long coastline and vast maritime areas.

Asked when Liaoning, which is still conducting trials, will be deployed for operations, he said ever since it was commissioned, the aircraft carrier has been conducting scientific tests and training according to a plan.

The US military believed that China has been working on its own aircraft carrier project while using the Liaoning for training purposes.

"China continues to pursue an indigenous aircraft carrier programme and could build multiple aircraft carriers over the next 15 years," the Pentagon had said.

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