Welcome aboard Liaoning, China's first aircraft carrier which has own TV station and in-house music band

The Liaoning (right), the first aircraft carrier commissioned into China's military, arrives in Hong Kong, on July 7, 2017.
The Liaoning (right), the first aircraft carrier commissioned into China's military, arrives in Hong Kong, on July 7, 2017. PHOTO: EPA

HONG KONG - Hundreds of Hong Kong residents will get a chance to get on board Liaoning and and the three vessels in its fleet this weekend (July 8 and July 9) for a close-up at China's first aircraft carrier and advanced military hardware.

Liaoning arrived in Hong Kong on Friday (July 7), a week after Chinese President Xi Jinping's first visit to the city since coming to power in 2013.

Thousands had queued overnight at three People's Liberation Army (PLA) barracks in the city to get their hands on 2,000 free tickets. No cameras are allowed.

Here's a quick guide to Liaoning.

Liaoning's vital statistics

Measuring more than 300 metres long and about 75 metres wide, the second-hand Soviet ship has a displacement of about 60,000 tonnes.

Liaoning started life as one of the Soviet Union's last carriers under construction, before being sold by Ukraine as a stripped down hulk to China in 1998.


The vessel later underwent extensive retrofitting at a northern Chinese shipyard in what was seen by military analysts as a key early test of PLA navy's transformation into a blue water navy.

Powered by a conventional propulsion system, Liaoning began sea trials as China's first aircraft carrier in 2011 . It was commissioned in 2012 and declared combat ready in November 2016.

In April 2017, China launched its second carrer, its first to be designed and built in the country. The second carrier is expected to be operational in 2020.

In June 2017, it launched a new class of naval destroyer, or Type 055, which the Chinese military called the biggest and most advanced in Asia.

Hard work refitting Liaoning

One of Liaoning's chief designers recently spoke of the hardships the team faced trying to refurbish the ship.

"It was not easy,"Mr Sun Guangsu, deputy chief designer of the Liaoning, told state broadcaster CCTV.

"When it was delivered (from Ukraine), we went inside, only to find it was in a mess full of empty beer cans and jars. It looked like a shabby hull and we had no documents, no standards about it."

Mr Wang Zhiguo, another designer, said in an interview with the China Youth Daily that his team always worked overtime and they accomplished 30 months worth of work within 15 months, which helped save a lot of time for the following trials.

According to Mr Wang, about 15 of his colleagues died due to overwork, reported Global Times.

Mr Wang Chunhui, director of one section of the carrier department that is responsible for aircraft maintenance, told the Global Times that China had never had an aircraft carrier before and did not know how to deal with the issues the carrier faced.

So they had to go about solving them on their own, drawing on the expertise of officers from across different departments.

Facilities on board

One crew member relaxing in one of 3,600 rooms on Liaoning. They can borrow books from a mini library, watch TV, and tune in to the Liaoning's very own station. PHOTO:  WEIBO ACCOUNT OF CAIJING MAGAZINE

There are over 20 floors, 3,800 rooms and cabins, 20,000 sets of equipment in Liaoning which houses 10 cafeterias and event its very own TV station, reported CCTV in a report last October.

The rooms include sleeping cabins, three gyms, one post office and laundry centre. There is a mess hall, a mini library and a convenience store where crew members can buy snacks and everyday items.

The flight deck can be turned into a makeshift football pitch, or a badminton, court or a basketball court. PHOTO:  WEIBO ACCOUNT OF CAIJING MAGAZINE

There is also a medical centre with a treatment room and an X-ray room.

The largest room is the hanger bay, where the J-15s, helicopters and other aircraft are stored.

Number of personnel

There are three gyms on Liaoning. PHOTO:  WEIBO ACCOUNT OF CAIJING MAGAZINE

More than 1,000 people live, exercise and train inside China's first aircraft carrier.

Men and women live apart, and the use of fingerprint scanners restrict entry to the women's quarters. Most sailors are given single beds about one metre wide and two metres long. There are around 100 female crew members.

The crew members will be at sea for months for each mission.

Two crew members are tasked to do the laundry, handling around 1,000 kg of laundry per day, while a 11-crew team does the dishes.

Food and entertainment on board

There are 10 canteens to serve more than 1,000 crew members. PHOTO:  WEIBO ACCOUNT OF CAIJING MAGAZINE

The officers have their meals in 10 cafeterias, including ones specially designed for Muslims.

They are offered four appetisers, six main courses and two desserts, going through two to three tonnes of food per day.

For leisure, the crew borrow books from a mini library, watch TV, and tune in to the Liaoning's very own station, which broadcasts news and current events twice a week.

The ship even has an in-house music band "Deep Blue", according to South China Morning Post.

The flight deck can turned into a makeshift soccer pitch, badminton court or basketball court.

Liaoning also holds an annual basketball competition.

J-15 fighter jets as star attraction

J-15 fighter jets are seen on the flight deck of China's sole aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, as it arrives in Hong Kong waters on July 7, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

The J-15 is the only aircraft that is designed for carrier operation in China.

It was developed by Shenyang Aircraft Corporation and based on the Soviet-era Sukhoi Su-33. The flight deck on LIaoning is about a tenth the length of a regular runway, so the J-15s were designed to take off using a minimal amount of distance.

PLA Daily reported that Liaoning was carrying more than 20 J-15s when it departed its home port of Qingdao in the eastern Chinese province of Shandong on June 25.

The fighter jets are generally able to be folded so as to save space on deck and in hangers.

On public tours of American aircraft carriers, visitors have been allowed to take the elevator from hangar bay to the flight deck, but the PLA has not yet said whether Hong Kongers can expect the same, according to South China Morning Post.