China is planning to deploy its first aircraft carrier, the Varyag, to the South China Sea by August 2012.

According to People’s Daily Online, the aircraft carrier will be under the direct command of China’s Central Military Commission.

The Varyag vessel, which has just completed its maiden sea trials, is expected to enhance China’s offshore capabilities beyond the first island chain.

Bought from the Ukraine in 1992, the 300m-long has a ski jump-style aircraft launch and will be renamed the Shi Lang.