Fujian aircraft carrier: China launches third most advanced aircraft carrier

Named “Fujian”, the ship is the first Chinese-designed and built catapult aircraft carrier, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

Its electromagnetic catapult-assisted launch system is a major upgrade from the less advanced ski jump system used on Liaoning and Shandong, its two predecessors, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a think tank based in Washington. Tank.

The new system, similar to those used by US aircraft carriers, will allow China to launch a wider variety of aircraft from Fujian faster and with more ammunition.

In addition to the launch system, the Fujian is equipped with blocking devices and a full-load displacement of more than 80,000 tons, Xinhua reported, adding that the ship will carry out mooring tests and sailing tests afterward. the start.

Matthew Funaiole, a senior researcher with CSIS’s China Project, previously told CNN that the new ship would be the Chinese military’s first modern aircraft carrier.

“It’s a pretty big step forward,” he said. “They’re really committed to a carrier program and they continue to push the limits of what they’re capable of doing.”

China names its aircraft carriers after its coastal provinces, with Liaoning to the northeast and Shandong to the east. Fujian, to the southeast, is the closest province to Taiwan, separated by a strait less than 128 kilometers wide at its narrowest point.

China’s ruling Communist Party claims sovereignty over Taiwan’s self-governing democracy, though it has never ruled it. Chinese leader Xi Jinping has repeatedly said that “reunification” between China and Taiwan is inevitable and refused to rule out the use of force.

China now has the largest naval force in the world, and aircraft carriers are the main ships of the all-powerful fleet. Massive ships are essentially a mobile air base, allowing rapid, long-term deployment of aircraft and weapons to a combat theater.

The boost to China’s navy comes amid growing geopolitical tensions with the United States, which under President Joe Biden is seeking to strengthen ties with allies and partners in the Asia-Pacific region to counter economic influence. and growing military might of Beijing.
Last year, Beijing bristled with a security pact between the US, UK and Australia dubbed AUKUS, an agreement whereby the three nations would exchange military information and technology to form a closer defense partnership in Asia. Naval drills involving members of the resurrected informal dialogue between the United States, Japan, Australia and India, known as the Quad, further unsettled Beijing.
In this image taken by China's state broadcaster CCTV, water cannons spray China's third aircraft carrier Fujian during its launching ceremony at a dry dock in Shanghai on Friday.

Naval rivalry

China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, was an unfinished Soviet-era ship that Beijing bought from Ukraine in 1998, updated and finally commissioned in 2012.

The Chinese military used the technological knowledge gained from this ship to build its first domestically built aircraft carrier, the Shandong, which entered service in December 2019.

But although China’s two initial aircraft carriers increased its naval power, their capacity was still far behind the United States, which has a total of 11 of the ships in service.

Moreover, Liaoning and Shandong were based on obsolete Soviet technology. Both of these carriers used the ski jump launch system, where planes simply took off from a slight ramp, while American carriers used a more advanced catapult system to launch their plane.

China's new high-tech aircraft carrier could launch in early 2022, satellite image analysis shows

Catapult-launched planes can take off faster and with greater amounts of fuel and ammunition, giving them an advantage over ski-jump-launched planes, which rely on their own power when taking off.

However, despite the advanced launch system, CSIS’s Funaiole said there were still signs the Chinese carrier was lagging behind its American counterparts, which have more catapults, a larger airway and more elevators to enable faster deployment of aircraft.

All US aircraft carriers are also nuclear-powered, while Fujian is supposed to run on conventional steam propulsion, which Funaiole says would limit its range. “(Although) that may be less of a factor for China at the moment, as many of its interests lie in the near seas,” he said.

After launch, the Fujian will need to be tested and fully equipped before it can be commissioned and officially put into service.

Initially, the US Department of Defense estimated the carrier would be ready for active service by 2023, but it has now pushed that date back to 2024.

Shandong’s aircraft carrier also took two years from its launch in 2017 to its final commissioning in 2019. Additionally, Fujian may struggle to get its catapults’ electromagnetic launch technology to work.

Even the United States had difficulty using the same system on their last carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford, which led to long deployment delays.

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Post expires at 12:58am on Wednesday June 29th, 2022