China’s Peoples Liberation Army Navy (PLA-N) formally commissioned its second aircraft carrier on December 17 at a ceremony in Sanya.
Named Shandong and flying the CV-17 pennant number, the vessel is the first to be built from the keel up in China, but is based on China’s first carrier, the CV-16 Liaoning which entered service in 2014.
Liaoning was extensively rebuilt from the unfinished hulk of the Soviet-era carrier Varyag which was originally acquired from Ukraine in 1995 to supposedly serve as a floating casino in China.
Varyag was originally to have been a sister ship to Russia’s Admiral Kusnetsov which has suffered from poor reliability and a reported botched overhaul in recent years, including most recently a fatal onboard fire on December 12.
Shandong will reportedly be equipped with about 15 J-15B Flying Shark (based on the Sukhoi Su-33) fighters and its J-15D electronic warfare derivative, Z-8, Z-9 and Ka-32 helicopters, and possibly unmanned systems.
Its commissioning ceremony at the Hainan port of Sanya suggests it will be based in the PLA-N’s south seas fleet which covers the contested South China Sea region and its approaches.