QINGDAO, China, Nov. 16 (UPI) -- The People's Liberation Army Navy's first aircraft carrier is ready to meet threats on the battlefield, Chinese media reports.
The vessel, named after the Chinese province of Liaoning after being purchased from Ukraine, was deemed combat-ready after years of refitting and sea trials. Initially laid down as an Admiral Kuznetsov-class carrier for the Soviet Navy in the 1980s, the ship has primarily been used by China for training missions, according to IHS Janes.
While Chinese military officials concede there is still a technological gap between the Liaoning and the carriers used by the United States, they are confident their modernization efforts have been effective.
"As a military force, we are always combat ready and our combat capacity also needs to be tested by war," PLAN Senior Captain Dongyou Li told the Global Times, a Chinese daily newspaper. "At this moment, we are doing our best to promote our strength and use it to prevent war. But we are preparing for actual combat at any time."
The combat-ready assessment follows a visit from three senior U.S. military officers, who Chinese naval leaders say approved of their equipment and maintenance capabilities.
Chinese media reports 1,000 non-commissioned officers currently serve on the Liaoning, in addition to 42 chief petty officers with an average 20 years serving the People's Liberation Army Navy.
"Weaponry is the key for combat capability on the carrier. As China's first generation of NCOs on the carrier, these officers' capability on how to operate, repair and maintain equipment is irreplaceable. And they are the source of our confidence," Li added.
Chinese military leaders have yet to disclose exactly how the Liaoning will be used. The recent announcement comes as U.S. and Chinese authorities spar over China's activities in the South China Sea.