China launches its third aircraft carrier: On Friday, June 17, 2022, coloured smoke signal the launch ceremony for China’s third aircraft carrier, dubbed Fujian, at a dry dock in Shanghai. China debuted its third aircraft carrier on Friday, the first of its kind to be planned and built wholly in the country.
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China launches high-tech aircraft carrier
BEIJING (Xinhua) — Beijing unveiled a new-generation aircraft carrier on Friday, the first of its kind to be planned and built in China, marking a watershed moment in the country’s efforts to expand its navy’s range and might.
According to official media reports, the Type 003 carrier named Fujian departed its drydock at a shipyard outside Shanghai in the morning and tied up at a nearby pier.
As water jets poured over the big ship’s deck, multi-colored streamers fluttered, and multicolored smoke was discharged, state broadcaster CCTV showed assembled navy troops standing beneath it.
The Type 003 ship’s capabilities are considered to equal those of Western carriers, with the newest armament and aircraft-launch technology, as Beijing strives to transform its navy, which is now the world’s largest, into a multi-carrier force.
The carrier was seen in what seemed to be a fully submerged drydock at the Jiangnan Shipyard outside Shanghai, according to satellite imagery captured by Planet Labs PBC on Thursday and analyzed by The Associated Press.
It was festooned with crimson bunting, apparently in anticipation of the launch.
“This is a significant milestone for China’s military-industrial complex,” said Ridzwan Rahmat, a defense intelligence analyst with Janes in Singapore.
“This demonstrates that Chinese engineers can now produce the entire range of surface combatants associated with modern naval warfare, including corvettes, frigates, destroyers, amphibious assault ships, and now an aircraft carrier,” he said.
“The ability to create a very sophisticated warship from the ground up will certainly result in a variety of benefits and spin-offs for the Chinese shipbuilding sector.”
The first Chinese carrier was a recycled Soviet vessel, and the second was built in China but based on a Soviet design.
Both were designed to use a “ski-jump” launch style, featuring a ramp at the end of the short runway to assist planes in taking off.
The Type 003 uses a catapult launcher, which is thought to be an electromagnetic device similar to one developed by the US Navy.
Such a technique puts less stress on the aircraft than older steam-type catapult launch systems, and using a catapult allows the ship to launch a wider range of aircraft, which is important for China to project naval force over a longer distance, according to Rahmat.
“In addition to external fuel tanks, these catapults allow planes to carry a larger load of armaments,” Rahmat remarked.
“Once fully operational, the PLAN’s third carrier will be able to deploy a more complete suite of aircraft involved with carrier strike group operations, including carrier onboard cargo transport and airborne early warning and control airframes, such as the KJ-600,” according to the statement.
For more than a decade, China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy, or PLAN, has been modernizing to become more of a “blue water” force, capable of operating globally rather than just near to the Chinese mainland.
At the same time, the United States has been focusing more on the region, particularly the South China Sea.
Six states claim all or part of the strategically important canal, which transports an estimated $5 trillion in global trade each year and has rich but rapidly dwindling fishing stocks as well as major underwater oil and gas deposits, causing tensions in the huge marine region.
China has been by far the most assertive in claiming almost the whole waterway, as well as its island characteristics and resources.
The US Navy has sailed warships past Chinese-built artificial islands in the water, complete with airstrips and other military infrastructure.
China claims the islands as part of its territory, but the US Navy claims the missions are carried out to ensure the free flow of international trade.
The carrier development program, according to the Department of Defense’s report to Congress last year on China’s military capabilities, is critical to the Chinese navy’s continued development into a global force, “gradually extending its operational reach beyond East Asia into a sustained ability to operate at increasingly longer ranges.”
The Defense Department stated that China’s “aircraft carriers and projected follow-on carriers, once operational, will extend air defense coverage beyond the range of coastal and shipboard missile systems and enable task group operations at increasingly greater ranges.”
China has strengthened its footprint in the Indian Ocean, the Western Pacific, and beyond in recent years, establishing its first overseas base in the African Horn nation of Djibouti, where the US, Japan, and others all have military bases.
It just struck a security arrangement with the Solomon Islands, which many fear could give it a foothold in the South Pacific, and it is negotiating with Cambodia to construct a port facility that might offer it a foothold in the Gulf of Thailand.
Analysts noted in a March research issued by the US Congressional Research Service that satellite photographs suggest the Type 003’s displacement will be around 100,000 tons, which is larger than previously assumed and comparable to that of US Navy carriers.
The PLAN now has 355 ships, including submarines, and the US forecasts that by 2025 and 2030, the force will have grown to 420 ships and 460 ships, respectively.
Despite possessing the world’s largest fleet in terms of numbers, the PLAN currently lacks the capability of the US Navy and is far behind in terms of carriers.
With 11 nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, the US Navy leads the world in aircraft carriers.
It also possesses nine amphibious assault ships that can transport helicopters and fighter jets with vertical takeoffs.
Allies of the United States, such as the United Kingdom and France, have their own carriers, while Japan has four “helicopter destroyers,” which are technically not aircraft carriers but do carry aircraft.
Two of them are being adapted to support fighters that take off and land vertically.
After naming its first two carriers after the provinces of Liaoning and Shandong, China’s next carrier was named after the Fujian province on the country’s southeastern coast.
China’s Type 003 carrier development is part of a larger military modernization effort.
China has approached the creation of aircraft carriers with caution, as it has done with its space program, preferring to use only tested and polished technologies.
According to Rahmat, China does not appear to have the aircraft needed to fully utilize the new carrier’s capabilities.
It’s unclear how near China is to readying its KJ-600 AWACS aircraft for carrier operations, which it began testing in 2020, and there’s “limited evidence” it’s started work on ship onboard delivery transport aircraft, he said.
It will need to be fitted out now that it has been launched, which may take two to six months.
Following that, engineers will conduct harbor acceptance and sea trials, which will likely take another six months before engineers begin launching test cargoes using the catapult system.
“The first aircraft will likely be launched from this carrier in late 2023 or early 2024,” he added, adding that “complete operational capability will likely be declared closer to 2025.”
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