The refitted carrier, commonly known by its original name, Varyag, returned to Dalian in northeast China last month after its ninth sea trial, according to reports in the official Chinese media.
Some Chinese military researchers had speculated earlier that it would be commissioned into the navy this year.
However, senior People’s Liberation Army officers have played down these expectations, making it clear the 60,000-ton carrier was far from operational readiness and would undergo an extensive schedule of trials and exercises.
“The Great Wall wasn’t built in a day,” Col. Lin Bai from the General Armaments Department, was quoted as saying on official government news websites after the Varyag returned to port.
Even when the Varyag is operational, it will only have a limited operational role, mostly for training and evaluation ahead of the anticipated launch of China’s first domestically built carriers after 2015, military analysts say.
Reports in unofficial Chinese military blogs and websites say China planned to build these carriers at Jiangnan Shipyard’s Chanxing Island shipbuilding base near Shanghai.
However, professional and amateur analysts who study satellite images of Chinese shipyards have been unable to find any evidence of construction.
In its annual report on the Chinese military published earlier this year, the Pentagon said construction may have started on some components of the indigenous carriers.
SYMBOL OF BUILD-UP