China announced Sunday that it had landed a fighter jet on the deck of an aircraft carrier for the first time, but it may be years before the ship is fully operational.
China's "first generation multi-purpose carrier-borne fighter jet," known as the J-15, successfully completed its first landing on the Liaoning, an aircraft carrier China built using an abandoned Soviet hull, according to China's official news agency Xinhua.
The J-15's capabilities are comparable to the Russian Su-33 jet and the U.S. F-18, Xinhua reported. The Chinese-designed jet can "carry multi-type anti-ship, air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles, as well as precision-guided bombs, the report said.
The U.S. military, in its latest annual assessment of China's military capability, predicted "it will still take several additional years for China to achieve a minimal level of combat capability for its aircraft carriers."
The Liaoning will be able to carry 30 J-15 fighter planes and will have a crew of 2,000, according to a People's Daily Online report published when it completed its first sea trials in August 2011.
China bought the shell of the carrier, then called the Varyag, from Ukraine in 1998. Its construction was begun under the Soviet military before the breakup of the Soviet Union.
The Pentagon report said another carrier, one made from components made in China, may already be under construction and ready to sail in 2015.
"China likely will build multiple aircraft carriers and associated support ships over the next decade," the U.S. assessment said.
The United States, Britain and Japan launched the first aircraft carriers nearly a century ago. The U.S. Navy, with 11, is the only fleet that currently operates more than one.
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