Hong Kong: China is close to beginning construction of its first aircraft carrier aimed at expanding the operational and strategic capabilities of the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), according to a Chinese news agency report.
A report by KANWA News cited sources in the Chinese defense industry as saying that several companies had received contracts on the development of systems and components for the proposed aircraft carrier.
"This indicates that the decision on construction of the aircraft carrier has been made, and its characteristics have been outlined," the agency said.
According to the report, a Shanghai shipbuilding company could be chosen as the main project contractor.
Chinese shipyards have so far built fast-attack missile patrol boats, dock landing ships, frigates and destroyers, many with stealth, high-tech features common on Western warships.
Chinese officials had said in March this year that the country was conducting research in aircraft carrier technologies. Russia has also offered China assistance in the development of its own aircraft carrier.
Alexander Denisov, head of Russia's weapons procurement agency, said last year at Airshow China 2006 that such assistance would not violate international norms in the light of the EU embargo on exports of military equipment to China.
In this regard it may be pertinent to point out the fact that China bought a Russian aircraft carrier Varyag as scrap in 2002 and towed it to China, where it was dry-docked in Dalian. It was cleaned and painted in 2005 and there is a certain amount of speculation that China may be seriously contemplating re-outfitting the ship.