BEIJING: China's navy will celebrate its 68th anniversary on Sunday amidst plans to commission a second aircraft carrier, develop the third one and expand the strength of its marine force from 20,000 to a lakh.
China's military is eyeing more aircraft carriers to enhance its capabilities, experts said, as the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Daily reported the achievements of the Chinese navy since 1949.
Sunday marks the 68th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese navy, with the PLA Daily listing the navy's achievements, including escorting ships at sea, building an aircraft battle group, and joint military exercises.
There were hints by the Ministry of Defence earlier that the second aircraft carrier which is currently being built at a breakneck speed in Dalian may be launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping. Recently state-run People's Daily quoted military experts as saying that the third aircraft carrier to be built in Shanghai may be nuclear powered.
China currently has one aircraft carrier, which is a refurbished vessel from the -former Soviet Union. It is building a second one with a third in the pipeline. Earlier reports said Chinese navy which now has an expanded role in the military is set to raise its marine forces from 20,000 to one lakh as it started setting up logistic bases in Gwadar port in Pakistan and Djibouti in Africa.
China has enhanced the battle capabilities of its aircraft carrier Liaoning, with more than 10 pilots from carrier-based jet fighters and commanders getting their certificates, making China one of the few countries capable of training its own pilots for aircraft carriers, the PLA Daily report said.
"In the long run, China needs to develop its own aircraft carrier battle teams, with at least six aircraft carriers, maritime forces led by guided missile destroyers, as well as attack submarines," Xu Guangyu, a senior advisor to the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, told the Global Times.
"China will build about 10 more bases for the six aircraft carriers," Xu said, adding that they can be built around countries friendly to China, such as Pakistan. "Hopefully, China could have bases on every continent, but that depends on countries which would like to cooperate with China," Xu said.
China is close to completing its second aircraft carrier, which will begin service by 2020, China Central Television reported, citing military experts. The PLA report also said patrols to safeguard China's maritime interests have been standardised, with more than 100 patrol boats and jet fighters patrolling key areas.