China Launches Its First Aircraft Carrier Built at Home

The state media said the unnamed ship was "transferred from dry dock into the water" in the northeastern port of Dalian in Liaoning province.

Wednesday's launch was presided over by the vice chairman of China's Central Military Commission and Communist Party Central Committee, Fan Changlong, and came just three days after the anniversary of the People's Liberation Army Navy's symbolic founding in 1949.

Chinese officials smashed a bottle of Champagne on the bow of their second aircraft carrier Wednesday, launching what the Defense Ministry calls the country's first "homemade" carrier - which took less than four years to build.

China first started developing the 50,000-ton vessel back in 2013 before construction began in March 2015.

The carrier, however, is not expected to fully enter service until 2020, as it will reportedly take years to install all the equipment and conduct the necessary tests and trials.

Xinhua added that putting the carrier into water "marks progress in China's efforts to design and build a domestic aircraft carrier".

Type 002 will be "far more advanced" than the first two carriers, according to the state-owned Global Times.

Unlike the US navy's longer-range nuclear carriers, both of China's feature Soviet-design so-called ski-jump bows, meant to give fighter jets enough lift to take off from shorter decks.

China will need "two carrier strike groups in the West Pacific and two in the Indian Ocean", the researcher Yin Zhuo told the newspaper. It will be more like a United States aircraft carrier rather than a Russian one. But unlike the nuclear-powered US carriers, both the new carrier and the Liaoning have ski-jump bows that borrow from the Soviet design.

The launch of the aircraft carrier comes amid China's assertiveness in the resource-rich South China Sea. Fueled by a fast-growing defense budget that is now the world's second biggest after the U.S., China's navy has also been acquiring destroyers, nuclear submarines and other ultramodern vessels.

China's recent naval modernization has raised eyebrows in the Pacific and globally, as China ignores worldwide law, builds and militarizes artificial islands in the South China Sea, and threatens and bullies its neighbors. Among them, only India has an aircraft carrier, one a little smaller than the Liaoning.

Analysts inside the country have previously said China needs at least five to six aircraft carriers.

Along with their role in protecting China's maritime interests, Chinese naval strategists see the carrier programme as "about having naval power commensurate with China's worldwide status, to impress both external and domestic audiences", noted China expert Michael Chase of the United States think-tank Rand Corporation.

Experts saw the new carrier as a signal from Beijing that it was ahead of naval capabilities among all Asian countries.