China has organized quite a ceremony on Wednesday to mark the launch of its first home-built aircraft carrier.
Decorated with hundreds of national flags, it was transferred into the water to the sounds of the country’s anthem and ‘patriotic songs’.
High-ranking officials broke a bottle of champagne on the ship’s hull to invite good luck, in accordance with an ancient tradition.
The video of the impressive procedure has been uploaded online. You can watch it below.
It’s the second Chinese aircraft carrier. China bought its first one – Liaoning – secondhand from Ukraine back in 1998. Beijing spent years refurbishing it and launched it more than a decade later – in 2012.
The new 50,000 ton ship doesn’t have a name yet, and is not operational just yet – first J-15 fighter jets will reportedly touch down sometime in the next three years.
The development started in late 2013, and experts say the vessel is still noticeably behind the ten U.S. carriers technologically. Chinese experts say that the country needs at least three or four more carriers to stay competitive.
Experts say the new ship is also based on the Soviet design, which puts certain limits on the weight it can carry. The outdated technology also affects the speed and the amount of time it can stay at sea.
It is seen as more of a ‘stepping stone’ to the next generation of aircraft carriers, which is a program kept secret in China.
The newly-built vessel will undeniably boost China’s future military presence in the area, amid the territorial disputes in the South China Sea and uncertain relations with the U.S.
China spends almost 150 billion U.S. dollars on its army, and has the second largest military budget in the world – compared to U.S. 600 billion.
Beijing is also rumored to be developing a new aircraft carrier, which will be closer in size to U.S. 100,000 ton Nimitz class ships.
Russia currently has only one such a vessel – the old Soviet-built Admiral Kuznetsov – and is far behind in the race.
The significant increase in military power most likely leave China’s neighbors – Japan, India and South Korea – feel threatened.