China’s first aircraft carrier was delivered and commissioned to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy Tuesday after years of refitting and sea trials.
Overseen by President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, the carrier was officially handed over by the navy’s main contractor, the China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation, at a ceremony held at a naval base in northeast China’s city of Dalian.
President Hu, also chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), endorsed a PLA flag and naming certificate to the naval unit that received the carrier.
The carrier, formerly known as the Soviet ship Varyag, was renamed Liaoning and underwent years of refitting efforts to install engines, weapons, as well as a year-long sea trial.
The ceremony made China the tenth country around the world and the last among the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council to have an aircraft carrier in active service.
Premier Wen said in reading off a congratulatory letter sent from top central authorities that China’s first aircraft carrier in active service will “be of great and far-reaching significance in inspiring patriotism, national spirit and driving national defense technologies.”
“It will also be of great significance in enhancing national defense power and the country’s comprehensive strength,” Premier Wen said.
“China’s development of an aircraft carrier was an important strategic decision made by the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, the State Council and the Central Military Commission,” Wen said.
“The delivery and commission of the first carrier is a milestone in the PLA’s history and embodies a major achievement of China’s weaponry and equipment development, as well as its national defense modernization,” he said.
After the commission ceremony, President Hu boarded the Liaoning, which was in full dress, and inspected the Navy’s honor guard.
President Hu gave his firm appreciation for the construction of the Liaoning and ordered the Navy and relevant research institutes to keep up their good work.
The president and premier later came to the carrier’s flight deck and some cabins where they talked with sailors, and scientists and engineers who developed the carrier.
According to the CMC, after being commissioned to the Navy, the Liaoning will continue to serve for scientific research purposes, as well as military training.
“The PLA’s General Armament Department, the Navy and all comrades participating in the carrier program should make new contributions in promoting China’s weaponry construction and safeguarding national sovereignty, security and territorial integrity,” Wen said.
“The country and people appreciate all participants in the aircraft carrier program,” Wen said.
Hu and Wen were accompanied by CMC Vice Chairmen Guo Boxiong and Xu Caihou, as well as State Council Secretary-General Ma Kai, director of the PLA’s General Armament Department Chang Wanquan and Navy Commander Wu Shengli.
China announced its aircraft carrier program in July 2011, when the carrier was berthed in Dalian for refitting. Dalian is located at the south end of Liaoning province.