Beijing: In a sign of Beijing's increasing naval power, China will launch towards the end of this year its first indigenous built aircraft carrier, which it plans to induct in the PLA Navy by 2020.
This will be China's second aircraft carrier after Liaoning, a refitted ship bought from Ukraine in 1998.
China's second aircraft carrier is scheduled to be launched later this year and is expected to enter the service by 2020, Xu Guangyu, a retired Chinese military officer and consultant to the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, said in an interview with Beijing Media Network.
Beijing has been constantly building up its navy and is growing more assertive at seas. Liaoning has already sailed into the disputed waters of the South China Sea and East China Sea.
It also entered the Taiwan Strait recently, prompting Taipei to scramble jets.
China's first home-made aircraft carrier, designed to be a base for fighter jets and helicopters, is now near completion, People's Daily reported.
The aircraft carrier is the first of the Type 001A class, and represents an important step in advancing China's naval power.
Earlier in October 2016, Chinese Defence Ministry spokesperson Wu Qian had said the aircraft carrier was being built as planned and most of its major construction and design work was completed.
Yin Zhuo, a Chinese naval expert, also confirmed in a CCTV interview that China's first home-made aircraft carrier is expected to be launched in water in early 2017.
There is still a large amount of work to do at the carrier's outfitting stage after its launching. It will take about one-to-two years to carry out functional debugging for its devices as well as weapons and equipment. The new aircraft carrier could begin its sea trial by early 2019, Xu said.
Xu also said that Chinese carrier pilots are also under training, with an expectation of forming two aviation units.(IANS)