China plans to build an aircraft carrier but it will not be fully operational until 2020, Jane's Defense Weekly reported June 2.
Senior Chinese naval sources were quoted as saying that the carrier program was approved at last year's 15th Communist Party Congress in Beijing.
But it appears to have been moved from China's 1996-2000 five-year plan to the 2001-2005 five-year plan, the military affairs magazine quoted naval sources as saying.
The delivery of southeast Asia's first aircraft carrier to Thailand has increased the Chinese military's determination to acquire the necessary technology, Jane's said.
The carrier program calls for a 24-month feasibility study to produce a design concept, the magazine said in its June 3 issue.
"The People's Liberation Army expects it will take around 18 years to complete building, fitting out, sea trials, and training before the first carrier is declared operationally ready," Jane's said.
That means an aircraft carrier would not be fully operational until 2020, it said.
A senior naval source quoted by the magazine said one of the leading Beijing defense studies institutes "will be tasked with preparing a feasibility study" from the year 2000. This will include a decision on what type of aircraft to use on the carrier, Jane's said.
The London-based magazine said unidentified diplomats believe that China's Central Military Commission is prepared to wait until 2000 to begin the study because it still has to secure funding for the whole carrier program.
"It is estimated that it could cost $500 million to complete the design at home and procure much-needed equipment overseas," the magazine said.