China on Sunday announced that it had successfully conducted a flight landing exercise for the first time on its only aircraft carrier, Liaoning.
An indigenously built J-15 fighter aircraft was used for the landing on the carrier - formerly the Soviet-made Varyag -- at an
undisclosed location, it was announced through the official media on Sunday.
India currently has one carrier, the Viraat, formerly known as HMS Hermes, but is converting another, the Admiral Gorshkov - also Soviet-made -- into the Vikramaditya. A third is under construction at a naval dockyard in Kerala.
The successful flight landing on Liaoning also marked the debut of the J-15 as China's first generation multi-purpose carrier-borne fighter jet, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy said.
Designed by and made in China, the J-15 is able to carry multi-type anti-ship, air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles, as well as precision-guided bombs.
The J-15 has comprehensive capabilities comparable to those of the Russian Su-33 jet and the US F-18, state media said.
The aircraft carrier was first officially unveiled in late September and inducted into the Navy. Since then its crew has completed more than 100 training and test exercises.
The unveiling of the carrier and the timing of the aircraft landing - presumably carefully calibrated - are crucial: both have come in months during which China's maritime disputes with neighbours have escalated both in South China Sea (Vietnam and Philippines) and East China Sea (Japan) over sovereignty over disputed islands.
The induction of the aircraft carrier at this juncture is being interpreted as China flexing its military muscles.
Authorities have said the vessel - over 900 feet in length -- has undergone extensive sea trials and will increase its capacity to defend state interests.
The Varyag was originally purchased by a Chinese businessman to convert it into a floating hotel and casino. But it was later acquired by the PLA. In 2011, it was announced that the vessel was being refitted to be China's first aircraft carrier.
Besides China and India, the other countries which have carriers are the US (11), Russia, UK, Italy, Spain and France.