China to send first aircraft carrier on high seas voyage: Xinhua

BEIJING Fri Apr 19, 2013 7:22am EDT

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BEIJING (Reuters) - China will send its first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, on a voyage on the high seas for the first time within a year, the state-run news agency Xinhua said on Friday.

The Liaoning, purchased used from Ukraine and refurbished in China, has conducted more than 100 exercises and experiments since it was commissioned last year, Xinhua said.

Although considered decades behind U.S. technology, the Liaoning represents the Chinese navy's blue-water ambitions and has been the focus of a campaign to stir patriotism.

It has also been the most visible of China's efforts for more than a year to build up military hardware, including test flying two prototype versions of stealth fighter jets -- one of which is believed capable on landing on aircraft carriers.

Last year, China also unveiled its first attack helicopter and a range of drone aircraft it hopes to export.

In November a U.S. government commission said it believed that within two years, Chinese submarines would be capable of deploying nuclear weapons.

China is alone among the original nuclear weapons states to be expanding its nuclear forces, according to the report by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

Xinhua did not say where the Liaoning would go or for how long. The carrier has been conducting training maneuvers since it arrived at its east coast home port of Qingdao in February.

"To date, all the tests have been going smoothly, and the Qingdao home port has been proven capable of berthing and supporting the carrier", Xinhua said.

"It will undergo further tests, including ocean-going trials and flight-landing exercises under the schedule."

(Reporting by Terril Yue Jones; Editing by Ron Popeski)

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