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China could commission its 2nd aircraft carrier next month

China's first aircraft carrier Liaoning. Internet photo

BEIJING (PTI): China has hinted at commissioning its first indigenously-built aircraft carrier next month as it strengthens its powerful navy which plays a more dominant role in projecting the nation's power overseas.

The "outfitting work" is going on smoothly for China's first domestically made aircraft carrier, Chinese military spokesman Col Wu Qian told media briefing in Beijing on Thursday.

Asked whether the aircraft carrier will be launched on the 68th anniversary of the PLA Navy on April 23, he said, "We won't be kept waiting for long."

Some reports said President Xi Jinping may attend the launch ceremony.

Earlier reports in the official media said it may take few years for the new aircraft carrier to become fully operational.

China currently has one aircraft carrier, which is a refurbished vessel from former Soviet Union. It is building a second one while the third is in the pipeline.

Reports also said China has started building a new generation of large amphibious assault vessels including a helicopter carrier that will strengthen the navy.

The 075 Landing Helicopter Dock is now under construction by a Shanghai-based shipbuilding company, the South China Morning Post reported on Wednesday.

The amphibious vessel is far larger than similar ships previously constructed for the PLA Navy.

The 075 can serve as a form of aircraft carrier and military experts said it would give China's navy the ability to launch various types of helicopters to attack naval vessels, enemy ground forces or submarines in the East or South China Sea.

About the stealth aircraft J-20 which made waves in the international media recently, Wu said it is undergoing test flights.

The J-20 will improve comprehensive capability of the Chinese air force, he said, adding that "it will shoulder the responsibility of national sovereignty, territorial integrity".

Official media reports this month said China has operationalised its first stealth aircraft.

Once commissioned, it will have major implications for India as it was earlier tested near the border in Tibet for its endurance in high altitude.

The plane is regarded a major breakthrough for China as it will take the country to a next level in the region. China is otherwise mostly reliant on Russian aircraft including advanced versions of Sukois, like the Indian Air Force.

A video footage from CCTV Channel 7 showed J-20 fighters joining the PLA Air Force with Y-20 transport planes and H-6K bombers.

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