China's Defense Ministry said on Wednesday that China is rebuilding Varyag aircraft carrier body for the functions of technological research and military training.
"China is using an old aircraft carrier base for technological research, experiment and military training," said Geng Yansheng, a ministry spokesman, at a routine correspondent conference.
The challenge signifies the first official verification that China is sticking with an aircraft carrier plan of its own.
"The aircraft carrier is still seaworthy, as it has been docked at sea for quite a while. The time for its first sea trialis going to be based upon the rebuilding timetable," said Geng.
"As a significant part of the research and military training plan, practicing aircraft pilots is additionally in progress," he said.
The spokesman announced that the pursuit of an aircraft carrier plan won't affect the inshore defense strategy of China navy.
The warship is an empty shell of aircraft carrier bought in Ukraine. Ukraine disarmed it and taken out its engines before selling it to China.
The craft was initially constructed by the former Soviet Union, which still did not complete the ship's construction before collapsing in 1991.
The research and training plan embodies the capability of China's defense technology and will promote the modernization of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), the spokesman said.
Geng said the necessity of acquiring an aircraft carrier for China came from the truth that the country has a very long coastline and a large amount of territorial waters.
The still-unnamed warship is scheduled to receive final adjustments at a shipyard in the port city of Dalian in northeast China's Liaoning Province before embarking on its maiden voyage.
Video footage and pictures acquired by Xinhua showed construction facilities on the carrier's deck. The ship's rusty hull has been repainted with the navy blue shade used by the PLA.
The reconstruction of the aircraft carrier is a long-term project and will have a long way to go before the warship can become operational, Geng said.
"Both overestimation and underestimation of China's aircraft carrier in future have been wrong," Geng said.
Wednesday's official confirmation ended years of speculation, doubt and dreams regarding China's acquirement of an aircraft carrier.
Once the refitting is completed, the aircraft carrier will make China the last of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council to own a carrier.
The spokesman did not give further details about the carrier. However, Chinese military experts have provided a more detailed picture of the ship and its capabilities.
The carrier has a displacement of nearly 60,000 metric tons, putting it in the same class as Russia's commissioned carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, said Cao Weidong, a researcher with the PLA Navy's Academic Research Institute.
It is a conventionally-powered medium-sized carrier that will be equipped with indigenous Chinese engines, ship-borne aircraft, radar and other hardware, Cao said.
Fixed-wing aircraft on the carrier will use a ski-jump to take off of the vessel, instead of a catapult system, after the refitting is completed, Cao said.