China's first home-built aircraft carrier leaves Dalian in Northeast China's Liaoning province for sea trials on May 13, 2018. [Photo/Xinhua]
China commissioned CNS Shandong — its second aircraft carrier and the first such ship wholly designed and built in the country — in Sanya, Hainan province, on Tuesday afternoon.
President Xi Jinping, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, took part in the commissioning ceremony for the colossal ship, named after the eastern province of Shandong, at a naval base in the coastal city and personally handed the military flag to Senior Captain Lai Yijun, its commanding officer.
The move saw China enter an elite club of world powers that operate multiple carriers. There were previously only three countries with more than one carrier in active service — the United States, the United Kingdom and Italy.
Before Tuesday, the People's Liberation Army Navy had a sole carrier — CNS Liaoning — which was originally a Soviet-era vessel and was extensively refitted at the Dalian shipyard in Liaoning province. It went into service in September 2012 and has executed several long-range operations with other warships in its carrier battle group.
During the delivery ceremony on Tuesday, Xi also inspected CNS Shandong, which had several J-15 fighter jets on its flight deck.
The deployment of the fighter jets on the new carrier was a stark contrast to the first service days of CNS Liaoning, that did not feature any combat aircraft. It also indicates CNS Shandong has likely gained initial operational capability.
Carrying the hull designation number 17, CNS Shandong is the largest, mightiest and most sophisticated naval ship ever developed and built in China.
Its construction began in November 2013 at Dalian Shipbuilding Industry, a subsidiary of China State Shipbuilding Corp, the world's largest shipbuilder.
It was launched in April 2017, conducted its maiden sea trial in May last year, and conducted eight other sea trials before being commissioned.
The ship set sail from the Dalian shipyard, bound for Sanya, in the middle of last month on its final sea trial and farthest voyage to date, sailing through the Taiwan Straits on the way.
According to information published by the Navy, CNS Shandong displaces at least 50,000 metric tons of water. It has conventional propulsion systems and uses a ramp to launch J-15 fighter jets, the spearhead of China's carriers, like CNS Liaoning. The ship also deploys several types of helicopters.