Chinese Aircraft Carrier

China's sole operating aircraft carrier, The Liaoning, is paying its first port call on Hong Kong to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the region's handover from British to Chinese rule.

The ship arrived on Friday with its escorts of two guided missile destroyers and one missile frigate, dropping anchor at a naval base across from the skyscrapers of Hong Kong Island.

Tickets have been distributed for visits to the ships in a bid to promote patriotism in an increasingly divided territory.

Strangely, China's first carrier was built not by the nation itself, but in Ukraine for the Soviet Navy.

Liaoning was in fact born as 'Riga', the sister ship to the Admiral Kuznetsov (now Russia's only carrier).

Ownership was transferred to Ukraine with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and construction had ceased on the carrier by 1992, with work only 68% complete.

The main difference between her and her Russian sister ship is that unlike the Kuznetsov, which carries surface-attack cruise missiles, Liaoning is equipped only with air defence weapons and must use its aircraft for surface attack.

Refurbishment work and fitting out began in 2005 after a move to dry dock in the city of Dalian.

Engines and 'other heavy equipment' were installed from 2009, with sea trials starting two years later. 

Aircraft carrier

However, state media reported that it would be another four to five years before the Liaoning reached full capacity, due to the need for training and coordination.

Nowadays, Liaoning is finally able to do what she was intended for. She can carry a total of 36 aircraft, including 24 J-15 fighter jets and a number of military helicopters.

China launched a domestically produced aircraft carrier in April.

Experts have suggested that, in future, China could use Liaoning along with other newly-developed carriers to intimidate smaller countries that have territorial claims in the South China Sea, as well as extending air control further south of the disputed area.