The Chinese have launched the country’s second aircraft carrier, but the first to be manufactured domestically as they grow in power and look to project it more and more in the region.

The unnamed carrier should be operational by 2020 and for now, will continue to be outfitted in the port city of Dalian. With tensions running high around North Korea with the US, the Chinese will be looking to counter the US at every turn.

The Chinese have one operational carrier, the Liaoning, which was a Soviet-style carrier that the country bought from the Ukraine and has refurbished. While technologically not on par with their US counterparts, it carries 50 aircraft and can be a formidable weapon.

The sight of a bottle of champagne hitting the bow of a new Chinese-built aircraft carrier will worry many.

Western military intelligence will be poring over the television footage. For them it’s not emotional: cold calculations are being made.

They see a not quite finished vessel, a few years from full service, partly based on Soviet-era design.

It’s technologically inferior to the ten aircraft carriers being used by the United States Navy – but there’s no doubt that it’s a big step for China.

China’s aircraft carrier programme is a state secret, but it’s hard to imagine this country being satisfied with two of them.

The US says all options are on the table to remove North Korea’s nuclear weapons – and it is using the USS Carl Vinson battle group to press the point.

The carrier’s launch was attended by Fan Changlong, the vice-president of China’s central military commission. It will be powered by conventional propulsion rather than nuclear. And according to Chinese military sources, the carrier will carry the Chinese J-15 aircraft which are based on the Russian SU-33 design. They are rumored to be a “semi-stealth” variant.

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Photo courtesy Reuters