China’s first domestically-built aircraft carrier officially enters service

(CNN) – China has officially commissioned its first domestically-built aircraft carrier, the Shandong, a significant step forward in Chinese President Xi Jinping’s ambitions for the country to field a world-class navy.

Xi attended the commissioning ceremony in the southern province of Hainan Tuesday, according to state-run media, where the Shandong finally entered service as part of the People’s Liberation Navy.

According to state-run news agency Xinhua, Xi presented a Chinese flag and a certificate with the ship’s official name to the ship’s captain and political commissar.

The Shandong, which uses conventional rather than nuclear propulsion, is the second carrier in the Chinese fleet.

China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, a retrofitted Soviet-era vessel, was purchased from the Ukrainian government in 1998.

Both the Liaoning and the Shandong use ski-jump style ramps at the end of the flight deck to launch planes, a comparatively older technology compared to the United States Navy’s preferred “catapult” technology.

Aircraft launched by catapults can get airborne quicker and with greater quantities of fuel and ammunition, giving them an advantage over Chinese planes, which rely on their own power when lifting off from ski-jumps.

The aircraft carrier’s name was officially announced on Tuesday. Before then, it had been only known as the Type 001A.

Both of China’s aircraft carriers, the Shandong and the Liaoning, are named after coastal provinces close to Beijing.

According to Peter Layton, visiting fellow at the Griffith Asia Institute, the Liaoning was intended to act as more of a training vessel, whereas the Shandong is likely to be deployed in combat missions, positioning China alongside a select number of countries with global naval capabilities, including Russia, France, the US, and the United Kingdom.