More aircraft carriers likely in China

China's first aircraft carrier, a former Soviet carrier called the Varyag, docked after its handover to the People's Liberation Army (PLA) navy in Dalian, northeast China's Liaoning province.

BEIJING - It's been less than a year since the Liaoning, the Chinese navy's first aircraft carrier, was put into active service, but a Defence Ministry spokesman is promising that there will be more carriers in the future.

On Thursday, Colonel Yang Yujun said at a news conference that China will consider developing aircraft carriers in accordance with its national defence needs.

Yang made the comment in response to media reports that China is, for the first time, domestically developing an aircraft carrier.

The Liaoning is a retrofitted former Soviet Union carrier commissioned in the People's Liberation Army navy on Sept 25. It can carry about 30 fixed-wing aircraft.

Takeoff and landing tests of J-15 fighters, the navy's main strike force, from the Liaoning have thus far been successful. The carrier has also completed three training missions this year.

"How many carriers the Chinese military will build depends on its naval strategy and the country's economy," said Wen Bing, a senior researcher of the PLA Academy of Military Sciences.

"China is still exploring how to effectively develop and use its carrier battle group, so it is too early to predict the number of carriers in the future."

Wen said China is determined to gradually improve its naval prowess.

In the near future, China will not be able to build a carrier as advanced as those in Western navies, and the nation must have a reasonable outlook in its plans for developing carriers, Wen said.

But Cui Yiliang, editor-in-chief of Modern Ships magazine, offered a different opinion.

"Our shipbuilding sector definitely has the potential to develop and build large carriers because China's capability in industrial manufacturing is stronger than some nations that have already built their own carriers," Cui said.

In addition, the country has accumulated a lot of experience in refitting the Liaoning, which will significantly boost the nation's plans for an indigenous carrier.

"One carrier can't guarantee that we can deploy and put into use a carrier battle group any time in the future since the giant ship is a very complicated system that is prone to a wide variety of problems," said Cui, who added that at least two or three carriers are needed.

"But the final decision is up to the top leaders."