The vessel has a rich history. It was originally laid down in 1985 for the Soviet Navy as the Kuznetsov-class aircraft cruiser ‘Riga.' Since then, the carrier was renamed ‘Varyag' in 1990; put up for sale by Ukraine after the USSR dissolved in 1991; purchased and towed to the Dalian naval shipyard in northeast China in 1998, and finally rebuilt and commissioned into the People's Liberation Army Navy as ‘Liaoning' in 2012.
The Liaoning is a Type 001 aircraft carrier over 300 meters long and weighs 60,000 tons. It carries 24 Shenyang J-15 fighter jets along with 21 helicopters and was undergoing exercises at sea before arriving in Hong Kong. China's second aircraft carrier is being produced domestically based on the Liaoning and is currently undergoing final preparations before its commissioning.