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China to commission 2nd aircraft carrier soon: Report

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China's new indigenously-built aircraft carrier during its launch in April 2017. A file photo/Xinhua

BEIJING (PTI): China's second aircraft carrier, the first domestically-built, appears to be ready for commissioning soon as the ship has completed its eighth sea trial, the official media reported on Wednesday.

Troops in white naval uniforms lined the warship's flight deck on October 24 and practised an inspection ceremony, Global Times reported.

A barge loaded with a crane approached the bow of the ship as workers on the crane painted a huge "1" on the ship's hull though it was erased later, it said.

"Painting a hull number is usually a sign that a warship is about to join the military service," the report quoted a military expert as saying.

China's first aircraft carrier Liaoning, a refit of the Soviet era ship, was commissioned in 2012 in Dalian after years of refitting and sea trials. It is being largely used for training, especially to test the newly-developed carrier fighter jet J-15.

The Liaoning has the hull number 16, and many military observers expect the yet-to-be-named second carrier will bear the number 17, the report said.

The second aircraft carrier is moored at the Dalian shipyard in the northeast Liaoning province after it returned from its eighth sea trial held from October 15.

Military experts told the daily as the ship first set out on its eighth sea trial, the voyage would likely serve as an examination of the warship's readiness for final delivery, and that they expected the ship to be commissioned into the Chinese Navy this year.

In a major rejig of its military doctrine, China since 2013, has stepped up modernisation of its navy which includes building several aircraft carriers besides submarines, frigates and assault ships as part of its efforts to expand its global influence.

While the second aircraft carrier is undergoing trials, the third one is being built at a feverish pace.

Recent media reports, displaying satellite photos, said China has established a huge aircraft carrier factory in Shanghai to produce several huge ships.

China plans to acquire about five to six aircraft carriers in the coming years, according to reports in the official media.

In May this year, the Chinese Navy had commissioned two more guided missile destroyers, taking the total number of such ships to 20 with more in the pipeline.

China now has 20 Type 052Ds either in active service or being fitted out for service soon.

As part of the new military doctrine advocated by President Xi Jinping, the 2.3 million-strong Chinese military, the world's largest, has been downsized to two million in the last few years while it expanded the navy and air force manifold to enhance the country's global influence.

The Chinese Navy for the first time in its history has logistics bases in Djibouti in the Indian Ocean and is developing Pakistan's strategic Gwadar port in the Arabian Sea. China also has acquired Sri Lanka's Hambantota port as a debt swap for 99 years.

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