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China's aircraft carrier makes Qingdao its home

By Yang Jian  (Shanghai Daily)

14:42, February 28, 2013

China's first aircraft carrier has docked at its new permanent base in the eastern port of Qingdao.

The Liaoning left the northeast port of Dalian, where it had docked for 11 years for refurbishing, at around 9am on Tuesday for the first sea trials of the year and arrived at its new home yesterday morning.

There had been much speculation about where the aircraft carrier would call home since it officially entered service on September 25.

"The anchoring means the naval base for the aircraft carrier in Qingdao is in official operation after four years of construction," the People's Liberation Army Navy said in a statement.

The voyage indicated that the aircraft carrier no longer needs any shipyard adjustments and that its electronics, engines and hull were fully qualified, Xinhua news agency reported yesterday.

The carrier tested its weapon systems during the voyage from Dalian, the navy said, and will take part in further experiments and training at Qingdao.

Since its delivery to the PLA Navy, the Liaoning has undergone a series of sea trials and experiments, including successful test flights of carrier-borne J-15 fighter jets.

"The successful landing and takeoff in November is still the primary mission for the carrier. In the next step, the jets will take off and land with weapons loaded, as well as at night," said Li Jie, a researcher with the Naval Military Art Studies Institute.

Qingdao is home to China's Northern Fleet, responsible for operations in the Yellow Sea, the Sea of Japan, parts of the East China Sea and the Bohai Sea, about 150 kilometers from Beijing.

The port has the country's longest breakwater to guard against storms, and is ice-free all year.

Liu Jiangping, a Chinese naval expert, said Qingdao, with its harbor area of 5 million square meters and water 25 meters deep, is the ideal home for the Liaoning.

Yalong Bay off Hainan Island had been one of the candidates to house the aircraft carrier, but the plan was abandoned because the bay was a popular tourist spot, said Li.

The Liaoning is a refurbished Soviet-era carrier purchased from Ukraine.

While the Liaoning doesn't yet have an aircraft complement or battle group, the carrier program has been the most eye-catching element of China's naval buildup, which also includes ballistic missile submarines, modern destroyers and a new generation of stealth missile frigates, the first of which was launched on Monday at Shanghai's naval shipyard.

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