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China plans to formally introduce its aircraft carrier into service this year, the government says.Since last year, China has been putting the refurbished aircraft carrier, formerly called the Varyag, through its paces after a rebuilding phase. Several cruises have been performed. The government used the 11th National People's Congress to affirm fielding of the carrier is planned this year. That matches the expectation in the U.S., which notes, however, that it will be only the vessel that is fielded, not a full aircraft carrier capability. How long it will take for China to mount full aircraft operations from the carrier's flight deck is another matter. Some estimates suggest that capability will not exist until around 2015, which is also when the Pentagon expects China might field its first domestically produced aircraft carrier.
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