Updated 8:47 AM EST, Fri, Mar 05, 2021

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China's First Homegrown Aircraft Carrier Moves to Dry Dock; Launch Date is Imminent

Aircraft Carrier

(Photo : Getty Images) In this handout photo provided by the U.S. Navy, the future USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) is seen underway on its own power for the first time in Newport News, Virginia.

China's first homegrown aircraft carrier has been floated to a dry dock, signaling that its official launch is fast approaching.

The latest images of the Type 001A, likely to be named the "Shandong," shows that the hull and superstructure parts of the ship have already been painted. On Sunday, scaffolding around the ship has also been removed and the deck was cleared.

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The design of the new aircraft carrier is based on the Liaoning, China's People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN)'s only aircraft carrier that Beijing bought from Ukraine in 1998. From the successful refitting of the Liaoning in 2011 and its commission in 2012, China spent five years building the Type 001A, South China Morning Post noted.

Even though it resembles its sister ship, the new carrier features the most recent equipment including a larger hangar that can accommodate between 28 and 32 aircraft split of Shenyang J-15 fighters and helicopters. It also features an angled flight deck and a ski jump for short takeoff but arrested recovery (STOBAR) operations.

China's decision to use the STOBAR could mean that any development in the vessel's capability would likely be incremental, Euan Graham, director of the International Security Program at Australia's Lowy Institute, said. He added that China's two aircraft carrier will "remain essentially training vessels," although "the existence of a second carrier will give China much greater time at sea, and hence significantly boost the learning curve."

There are rumors that the Type 001A's hangars have been modified to cater for more below-deck aircraft storage.

Meanwhile, China has started working on its third carrier, or second homegrown aircraft carrier. The country plans to build up to six carriers and 10 naval bases to host them.

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