China's second aircraft carrier was commissioned into the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) on 17 December in a ceremony held at the Sanya-Yulin naval base on Hainan Island, and was given the name Shandong with pennant number 17.
The ceremony was attended by Chinese President Xi Jinping, who presented the PLA flag and naming certificate to the ship's captain and political commissar, reflecting the significance with which the entry into service of China's first wholly domestically built aircraft carrier is viewed.
The carrier's base-port of Sanya-Yulin is on the northern shores of the South China Sea, which gives a pointer to where the carrier is likely to operate in the immediate future. Although it will be geographically co-located with the naval forces of the Southern Theatre Command (South Sea Fleet), the carrier may be under direct command of the Central Military Commission because of its perceived strategic value.
Shandong was built by Dalian Shipbuilding International Corporation (DSIC) and was launched on 26 April 2017. It commenced sea trials in May 2018 and has completed a total of nine periods at sea. The final trials phase included a transit from Dalian to Hainan, during which it passed through the politically sensitive Taiwan Strait.
The carrier was built to broadly the same design as the PLAN's first carrier, Liaoning , which was formerly the Kuznetsov-class carrier Varyag and and was bought in a partially completed state from Ukraine in 2001. However, several modifications are evident in Shandong that are likely to reflect the knowledge gained from operating Liaoning, as well as the PLAN's concept of carrier operations, which differs from that of the former Soviet Navy, which designed the Kuznetsov-class as aircraft-carrying cruisers armed with long range anti-ship and surface-to-air missiles.
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