China has launched its first aircraft carrier on a maiden voyage, in a move that may prompt anxiety among its neighbours about its naval ambitions.
The country has a long-term plan to build a carrier force of four vessels to boost its power on the Asian region’s seas which are riddled with territorial disputes.
Military expert Yin Zhuo said its symbolic significance outweighed its practical importance.
The ship’s launch did not automatically mean it would be an effective war machine, he said.
“Its fighting capability depends on communication with other ships. Also, pilots need years of training followed by lots of flying practice. Above all they need to learn to recognise the aircraft carrier and avoid attacking Chinese fighters.”
For its first run, the ship, a refitted Soviet craft that was towed from Ukraine in 1998 minus engines and weapons systems, left the Port of Dalian in the northeast.
Official media say building a strong navy is necessary for China to safeguard its globalised national interests.