China’s 3rd Aircraft Carrier Not Nuclear but Uses Catapult for Takeoff


A recently published image of China’s land-based aircraft carrier development facility at Wuhan shows that the height of the island’s forward upper superstructure has been increased to facilitate faring in the array panels of the phased array radar. (Via CJDBY website)

IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly says in its article “China’s land-based carrier mock-up undergoing further modifications” that according to photos of the mock-up island of China’s new aircraft carrier published in Chinese online forums, “the height of the island’s forward upper superstructure on the carrier mock-up has been increased to facilitate faring in the array panels of the phased array radar. In addition, the smaller square apertures above those for the main array panels suggest that the Type 002 may be equipped with a dual-band, phased-array radar: a configuration that appears to be similar to that on China’s Type 055 destroyers, the first of which was launched in June.”

Another major modification of the mock-up is the removal of parts for sky-jump takeoff on the deck. That gives rise to the speculation that catapults will be used for takeoff but it is unclear whether the catapults are steam or electromagnetic ones.

As no modification is seen in the back of the mock-up island, the article believes that China’s third aircraft carrier will be conventional instead of nuclear one.

Mil.huanqiu.com says in its article “Jane’s speculation of the configuration of China’s new-type aircraft carrier: Conventional powered plus catapult takeoff”, “So far there is no evidence that indicates construction has been underway and there is speculation outside China that the construction of the third aircraft carrier has been delayed for modification of design to allow the installation of electromagnetic instead of steam catapults.”

Source: IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly “China’s land-based carrier mock-up undergoing further modifications” (summary by Chan Kai Yee, full text of which can be viewed at http://www.janes.com/article/73701/china-s-land-based-carrier-mock-up-undergoing-further-modifications)

Source: mil.huanqiu.com “Jane’s speculation of the configuration of China’s new-type aircraft carrier: Conventional powered plus catapult takeoff” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the article in Chinese)

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China’s Major Progress in Aircraft Carrier Technology


China’s Type 003 aircraft carrier. This display at the Military Museum of the Chinese People’s Revolution looks even further into the future. Here you can spot speculative features like catapults, J-20 fighters, and stealthy unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs). The nuclear-powered Type 003 supercarrier likely won’t enter service until after 2030. Photo: haohanfw.com

Popular Science describes China’s major progress in aircraft carrier technology in its article “China’s making major progress with its aircraft carrier tech: Say hello to China’s first catapult-equipped carrier.” The article is mainly based on what have been seen at China’s test site of steam and electromagnetic catapults, display of models in China’s Military Museum and information from Chinese military fans’ posts.

The article provides a fan-made computer-generated image of China’s second homegrown aircraft carrier and speculates that the carrier will have a displacement of 70,000 tons and powered with China-designed and made 170-230-megawatt CGT-60F heavy duty, F-class gas turbine to provide adequate power for huge steam catapults.

Such description, though speculation, may be true as without catapult, the carrier has no protection from its own fixed-wing AEW&C aircrafts at high sea. China must have a blue-sea aircraft carrier if it wants to have a blue sea navy.

The article describes China’s new J-15B, J-15T and even J-31 carrier-based aircrafts, which are based on the test flights already seen. When the carrier is operating at high sea far away from Chinese coast, it has no protection from China’s stealth J-20s. It certainly must have its own stealth fighter jets to counter others’.

J-31 may be as good as F-35, but J-20 is absolutely superior so that the model of China’s third homegrown carrier carries J-20s heavy stealth fighter jets. If so, the carrier must be a nuclear one with a displacement of 90,000 tons. Such a carrier may be commissioned by 2030

This blogger has no doubt that China is capable of obtaining such technologies, but believes that aircraft carrier is too expensive to build and maintain. To dominate the sea, China had better use its resources in building aerospace bombers and super quiet and fast attack nuclear submarines. China has the technology of super submarines and may have already begun building some. It will test flight manned aerospace aircrafts by 2030. Shall China build such expensive aircraft carrier?

Perhaps, as Chinese economy keeps on growing at 7% p.a., China will grow rich enough to afford all such advanced weapons.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Popular Science’s article, full text of which can be found at http://www.popsci.com/china-aircraft-carrier-technology#page-3


China’s Next Homegrown Aircraft Carrier Will Use 4 Steam Catapults


China’s Science and Technology Daily says in its report yesterday that there has been recent media report that China’s next homegrown Type 002 aircraft carrier to be launched by the end of this year the earliest will be equipped with 4 steam catapults instead of electromagnetic ones.

The newspaper interviewed Chinese naval expert Li Jie for that. According to Li, steam catapults have been in use for half a century and proved very reliable while electromagnetic one is a brand new technology that needs actual proof of its reliability in spite of its great advantages compared with steam ones. China had better wait and see.

Moreover, electromagnetic catapult consumes lots of electricity so that the aircraft carrier must be a nuclear one with total power exceeding 60 MW. Judging by Li’s words, China’s next aircraft carrier will not be a nuclear one.

Source: Science and Technology Daily “Will China’s Type 002 aircraft carrier be equipped with 4 steam catapults? Expert gives explanation” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the report in Chinese)


China’s Space Era Strategy Overwhelmingly Superior to US Air-Sea Battle


CHINESE HYPERSONIC SPACEPLANE
The Chinese hypersonic spaceplane, with a combined cycle engine that hops between jet, scramjets, and rockets, promises to be the ultimate form in reusable and easy space travel. In theory, it could cross the Pacific Ocean in one hour. China hopes to have these fast birds in the sky (with people onboard!) by 2030.
CCTV 13

There is no denial that the US regards China as its top potential enemy. Obama made it very clear that his Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was directed at China.

Obama’s pivot to Asia, in spite of his claim that it was not directed at China, was directed at China. That was clear to everybody.

The US is obsessed with military solution. That is why it maintains an excessive military budget in spite of its shortage of funds for its people’s welfare and its essential but dilapidated infrastructures. Obama’s major approach for his pivot to Asia was to deploy 60% of US military in Asia.

China follows its gifted strategist Sun Tzu’s teachings: Subdue the enemy with strategy is the best of best, with diplomacy the next best, with fighting the third option while with attacking enemy cities the last choice. China’s approaches now are first of all strategy, the strategy of weapon development to achieve military superiority and the strategy to exploit its geographical advantages.

It first built seven artificial islands to fully exploit its geographical advantages to prevent US attack of its homeland.

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s stress on development of integrated space and air capabilities for both attack and defense is the space era strategy that requires the development of technology for space travel. It is difficult but formidable. When China has succeeded in building an aerospace bomber so fast as capable to chase an ICBM, the US will have not even the ability to defend its homeland, let alone the capability to attack China.

However, US politicians and military, being strategy illiterate, adopts their air-sea battle strategy with which it won World War II when computer has not been invented yet. Now, they stick to the outdated strategy in spite of their failures in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Their new aircraft carrier is indeed very advanced but will be easy prey of an aerospace bomber.

I have just had a post that compares US and Chinese hypersonic flying vehicles based on a Popular Science’s article. It shows how ambitious Chinese are compared with US unmanned models with limited military capabilities.

China will certainly subdue the US with its superior strategy. It is only a matter of time.

Why?

Strategy illiterates have not learnt from the lessons from World War II. That is America’s major problem.

Germany adopted advanced technology to develop best tanks, lots of warplanes and rockets and made Britain and the Soviet Union suffer seriously.

British battleship was sunk by Japan’s aircrafts as it fails to realize the importance of air force. Like Britain, the US fails now to realize the importance of integrated space and air capabilities. Its space competition with the Soviet Union was a waste of huge resources for a show of technical superiority. When It has won the competition, it neglects space and transfers its resources to pursue near-term weapon superiority.

China’s space program is not for a show. It aims at obtaining technology for weapon development and exploiting space resources.

It is very clear the US is repeating Britain’s failure. US best aircraft carriers will be destroyed by aerospace bombers like Britain’s battleships by bomber aircrafts.

Article by Chan Kai Yee


The U.S. Navy’s Aircraft Carriers: $13 Billion Floating Targets for China or Russia


Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis in the Arabian Sea. Photo: Flickr/U.S. Navy

Sebastien Roblin June 10, 2017

On May 31, 2017, the U.S. Navy accepted into service USS Gerald Ford, the first of up to four new fleet carriers. The massive 1,100-foot-long vessel will eventually embark around sixty aircraft, including twenty-four F-35 Lightning stealth fighters and another twenty to twenty-four FA-18 Super Hornets. It features a faster elevator for loading munitions, and new electromagnetic launch catapults (EMALS) and arresting hooks to increase the tempo of flight operations while reducing maintenance costs. All of these new perks come at roughly a $13 billion price tag—more than twice the cost of the preceding USS George H. W. Bush.

The United States’ nuclear-powered fleet carriers are currently without rival in the world, and their onboard Carrier Air Wings can unleash tremendous sustained firepower. They serve as potent symbols of American military power, and floating air bases for campaigns in Libya, Iraq and the Balkans.

But how would the supercarriers fare when taking on something tougher than a third-world despot? Advances in missile and submarine technology put in question whether such large and expensive ships are survivable when operating within striking distance of an enemy coastline.

That striking distance is dictated by the roughly seven-hundred-mile combat radius of the carrier’s F-35C stealth fighters, with a shorter range for the Super Hornets. Inflight refueling may extend that distance a bit, though one should bear in mind that a carrier air wing has only a modest ability to refuel itself with its Super Hornet tankers without resorting to larger land-based tanker support. However, sailing a carrier strike group close enough for its fighters to attack coastal targets also places the carrier well within harm’s way of a variety of nasty new weapons.

Long Littoral Reach

One of the newer threats comes from ground-based ballistic missiles—normally a weapon we think of as exclusively used for striking land targets. However, the new Chinese DF-21D Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missiles (IRBM) possess a high degree of accuracy and the capability to adjust course midflight. Both traits enable the rocket to hit a moving target like an aircraft carrier.

The DF-21D “East Wind” IRBM has a range of nine hundred miles, and can adjust its flight path using targeting data fed to it by other platforms, including a series of Yaogan satellites put into space over the last several years. The U.S. Naval Institute claimed the massive kinetic energy of a descending DF-21D, combined with the explosive payload, could potentially destroy a carrier in one hit.

It’s important to note that the East Wind is a mobile weapons system, and could thus prove difficult to preemptively strike. On the other hand, while dozens of the missiles have been deployed to PLA units, it doesn’t appear that the weapon has ever been tested against a moving naval target.

Until recently IRBMs were nearly impossible to shoot down. Today, U.S. cruisers and destroyers carry SM-3 air-defense missiles, which supposedly might be able to swat down an incoming IRBM—although it’s not expected to be easy. There also a number of potential methods for messing up an IRBM’s guidance systems.

Stealthy Submarines—or Subs with Big Missiles

Torpedo-launching submarines sank several aircraft carriers during World War II—though both land- and carrier-based aircraft played a major role in countering the submarine threat. At the time, submarines were especially vulnerable to patrol planes because they had to surface a couple of times a day to keep their batteries charged. Even when lurking underwater, they relied on noisy air-breathing diesel engines that made them easier to pick up on sonar.

During the 1950s and ’60s, new nuclear-powered submarines increased the underwater endurance of subs from hours or a few days at best to months at a time. Nuclear propulsion also enabled them to become far faster and quieter than diesel submarines. Other innovations, such as anechoic tiles and teardrop-shaped hulls reinforced the sonar stealth trend. The quieting technology had reached such a peak by the end of the Cold War that nuclear submarines obliviously collided with each other in 1992, 1993 and as recently as 2009, due to their inability to detect each other.

Of course, carriers are always escorted by destroyers or frigates specialized in antisubmarine warfare. Furthermore, long-distance maritime patrol planes and shipboard helicopters also assist in sweeping the seas for enemy subs. However, while Russian submarines were initially much noisier than their Western counterparts during most of that period, later Cold War designs, such as the nuclear-powered Akula class, were nearly peers to their Western counterparts in quietness.

Nuclear submarines, however, cost well over $2 billion apiece in modern times, so noisier diesel submarines remain more common across the world. However, in the 1990s Sweden deployed the first submarine to use Air Independent Propulsion (AIP), the Gotland. A variety of AIP technologies allow for a new generation of very quiet and very cheap ship-hunting submarines that cost as little as roughly one-sixth the price of a nuclear submarine, and can operate up to two to four weeks underwater, albeit at fairly slow speeds.

China now possesses fifteen Type 41 submarines, employing the same Stirling AIP system as the Gotland, with another fifteen planned, while dozens of German-made Type 212, 214 and 218 AIP submarines are entering service across Europe and Asia. In fact, the Pacific in particular has become the site of a veritable submarine arms race.

Both nuclear and AIP submarines, including the Gotland, have repeatedly succeeded in sinking aircraft carriers during NATO naval exercises. This is even more alarming considering how cheap the latter type of submarines are to build. In addition to being quiet, AIP submarines possess the range and endurance to hunt for carriers across regional waters, even if most aren’t suitable for deep-ocean operations. Another limitation is that they are significantly slower than the carriers they are hunting, especially while attempting to maximize battery life, forcing them to rely more on ambush tactics.

Still, creeping up to within torpedo range of a carrier strike group is a risky business. Some submarines are designed to hunt their targets from afar. The Russian Oscar-class cruise missile submarine, for example, is not especially stealthy, but it does not have to get close to a carrier group’s surface escorts, thanks to the four-hundred-mile range of its P-700 Granit missiles, which it can launch while underwater. The ten-meter-long missiles travel at supersonic speeds, and are designed to network together to overwhelm defensive countermeasures.

Cruise Missile Defense

This brings us into the realm of missile defense, a long-established threat that carrier strike groups have evolved to counter. While carriers carry short-range antiaircraft missiles and Phalanx CIWS guns for self-defense, their escorting Ticonderoga-class cruisers and Arleigh Burke–class destroyers are armed with a diverse array of medium- and long-range air antiaircraft missiles, designed to thin out incoming missile barrages from hundreds of miles away. These defenses are backed up by networked radars and coordinated by the sophisticated Aegis defense system.

The challenge facing carrier strike groups today is that new antiship missiles are becoming faster, longer-range and more widespread, and can be deployed from platforms including long-distance patrol planes and bombers, small and stealthy fast-attack boats, and even shipping containers concealed in a harbor.

The greater range means new missiles can be more safely lobbed at the carrier without necessarily entering within range for easy retaliation. The greater speed means they are harder to shoot down. And the ability to deploy them from a variety of platforms means the missile-launching units might prove difficult to detect and comprehensively eradicate preemptively.

Take, for example, the Russian Kalibr cruise missile, the “Sizzler” antiship variant of which can strike naval targets up to four hundred miles away. The missile skims just above the sea, making it difficult to detect at a distance, before leaping up to three times the speed of sound on the terminal approach—offering a challenging target for missile-defense systems. The Kalibr can be fired not only from underwater by submarines, but also by relatively small and cheap corvettes.

The heavier but shorter-range BrahMos missile entering use on sea, land and air platforms in the Indian military approaches the target at Mach 2.8, and is designed to perform an L-shaped evasive maneuver to fool a ship’s missile defenses. And China, needless to say, has developed its own range of similar antiship missiles, including both clones of Russian weapons as well as truly indigenous designs.

Even more troubling for a carrier’s air defenses are a new generation of hypersonic missiles—weapons exceeding five times the speed of sound. On June 3, Russia claimed to have successfully tested the hypersonic Zircon missile, with a reported speed of 4,600 miles per hour.

If a carrier tasks forces defense’s function properly—not something to take for granted when both the attacking and defensive systems have scant operational records—then they should be able to handle a few incoming missiles. However, an attacker would seek to “saturate” the defender’s defenses by launching large volleys of the missiles all at once, and it may only take a few getting through to wreak considerable havoc.

This, however, brings us to the major critique common to all these carrier-killing tactics: they often require a high degree of coordination, operational planning and networking.

Breaking the Kill Chain

Set aside the air-defense missiles for a moment—a carrier’s first defense is that its thousand-foot-long flight deck is still nothing more than a tiny pinprick measured against the millions of square miles that make up the ocean. A tiny moving pinprick. Not just locating but also tracking a carrier across all that space relies on having a maritime observation apparatus coordinating long-distance patrol planes, submarines, over-the-horizon radars and satellites—many of which are vulnerable in turn to a carrier strike group’s aircraft and missiles.

Once that apparatus identifies a carrier’s position, the targeting data needs to make it back in a timely fashion to air, land or naval units to put them in position for an attack. This sort of “cueing” is also very important in submarine operations. In many cases, a separate platform will have to network targeting data on the carrier, as the launch platforms may be too far away to acquire them on their own radars. Of course, that targeting data may also be disrupted by electronic warfare and defensive countermeasures. Just as likely, the observers may lose track of the carrier task force’s position before elements can get into place to make the strike.

These considerations lead National Interest contributor Rob Farley to argue that China and Russia lack adequate the maritime intelligence assets and operational experience to mount a well-coordinated maritime search-and-destroy campaign against a carrier task force, even if they possess armaments that could theoretically prove effective against one.

The Operational Track Record—Such As It Is

It’s important to stress that nobody really knows how effective both the offensive and defensive naval technologies will prove against each other, as there have fortunately been no large-scale naval wars since World War II.

However, the smaller-scale naval conflicts that have occurred in the Persian Gulf, Arabian Sea and the South Atlantic all suggest long-range antiship missiles pose a substantial threat.

Consider the two British ships sunk by air-launched Exocet missiles in the Falkland War, with a third damaged by a ground-launched weapon. The first attack was not detected until seconds before the moment of impact. Argentina’s possession of just a few of the missiles nearly led London to dispatch a suicidal commando raid on Argentine soil to negate the threat.

During the same conflict, an Argentine diesel-electric submarine twice managed to launch torpedo attacks on British vessels without being detected—though, fortunately for the Royal Navy, the torpedoes all malfunctioned! Meanwhile, Argentina’s own carrier did not participate in the conflict due to the threat posed by British submarines, one of which had sunk cruiser General Belgrano.

On the other hand, antiship missiles liberally employed during the Iran-Iraq War generally failed to sink large tanker vessels—which may imply that supercarriers will also prove similarly resilient.

Obviously, these decades-old incidents should not be over-extrapolated into applying to current technology—but their lessons shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand.

One should also recall how many navies continued to invest in battleships in between the world wars, skeptical that then-new aircraft carriers could seriously challenge them. Surely, early carrier-based aircraft must not have seemed nearly as dependable as the sixteen-inch guns on a battleship turret. But those primitive warplanes and the operational doctrine for their use matured to the point where their ability to search for and destroy targets across hundreds of miles rendered the battleship obsolete.

Actual combat in World War II proved revelatory. In the December 7 raid on Pearl Harbor, Japanese warplanes sank three U.S. battleships and severely damaged several more. Shortly afterward, land-based bombers sank the British battleship Prince of Wales and the battlecruiser Repulse in a few of frenetic hours of action. To cap it off, the subsequent decisive naval battles of the Coral Sea and Midway were fought entirely by carrier air strikes and submarine attacks. It took these brutal encounters with reality to finally sweep away many navies’ long-held devotion to a weapon system that no longer provided results commensurate with the expense of building them.

Today’s supercarriers will likely serve on for decades. However, the new threats arrayed against them, combined with the limited range of the current generation of carrier-based aircraft, suggest they may prove too vulnerable to operate within striking distance of near-peer opponents.

It would make sense to plan future naval strategy around these new adversary capabilities, rather than simply doubling down on the supercarrier model because it has worked so far in permissive environments. Solutions that have been suggested to meet the new challenges posed by operating in littoral waters include using long-range carrier-based drones that will allow carriers to operate further afield from dangerous coastlines, relying on stealthy submarines to deliver cruise-missile attacks and distributing firepower across a larger fleet of individually less expensive ships. Above all, planners should seriously consider whether supercarriers loaded with relatively short-range warplanes remain a survivable and cost-efficient linchpin of U.S. naval strategy.

Sébastien Roblin holds a master’s degree in conflict resolution from Georgetown University and served as a university instructor for the Peace Corps in China. He has also worked in education, editing and refugee resettlement in France and the United States. He currently writes on security and military history for War Is Boring.

Source: National Interest “The U.S. Navy’s Aircraft Carriers: $13 Billion Floating Targets for China or Russia?”

Note: This is National Interest’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


China’s military tech is becoming less of a joke and more of a threat


China’s new homegrown aircraft carrier. (Reuters/Stringer)

Steve Mollman May 04, 2017

China’s first nuclear submarine was a joke. Launched in the 1970s and now an exhibit in a museum, it was loud, couldn’t fire missiles while submerged, and exposed its crew to high levels of radiation.

But it got the ball rolling. The nation’s modern subs make the US nervous with their technical advances, and China is now constructing the world’s largest submarine factory.

It isn’t just the subs. While China still lags the US badly in some areas, and its exported weapons have had reliability issues, signs abound that its military hardware is either catching up or becoming good enough to pose a real challenge in a potential conflict. A military modernization program pushed by Chinese president Xi Jinping is spurring things along.

“A ship that can fly”

Last week the world’s largest amphibious aircraft made its first taxiing test. The AG600, made by the state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China, is about the size of the Boeing 737 and is designed for marine takeoff and landing (or it can use conventional airstrips). One of its designers describes it as a “ship that can fly.”

The company says the plane will be used for marine rescue missions and fighting forest fires—it can scoop up 12 metric tons (13.2 tons) of water in 20 minutes. But given Beijing’s maritime ambitions in the South China Sea and elsewhere, the plane, with room for 50 passengers and a range of 4,500 km (2,800 miles), can also serve the People’s Liberation Army nicely, including via maritime patrols and troop and supplies transport—in other words, power projection. The hefty plane’s maiden flight over land is scheduled for this month, and over water later this year.

A made-in-China aircraft carrier

For years China has had just one operational aircraft carrier—hardly befitting an emerging maritime power. To make matters worse the Liaoning CV-16 was refitted from a laughably outdated Soviet-era Ukrainian ship. Last week China unveiled its first domestically built carrier at the northeast port of Dalian (see top image). The as-yet-unnamed vessel, to be fully operational in a few years, is technologically well behind its US counterparts. For instance it lacks a catapult to boost planes off the runway (making for inefficient operations) and uses conventional rather than nuclear power. But like China’s early subs, it’s a stepping stone to greater things. A third carrier is already under construction—one that more closely resembles a US carrier.

Stealthy fighter jets

China’s J-20 stealth fighter jet. qz.com photo

China is making real progress in fighter jets, as evidenced by the J-20 that went into service in March. The supersonic aircraft packs stealth technology, advanced radar and sensor capabilities, and a nifty 360-degree helmet display that lets the pilot see “through” the aircraft itself. It’s also bigger than the US’s F-22 Raptor—to which it’s often compared—allowing it to hold more fuel and travel farther. While it might be stealthy from the front, however, it probably isn’t from the side. But China is testing another advanced fighter jet (the J-31) that does better in the stealth department and will possibly operate from aircraft carriers.

A new spy ship

China launched in January a new electronic spy ship. The CNS Kaiyangxing, or Mizar, is capable of conducting all-weather, round-the-clock reconnaissance on multiple targets. During its unveiling, China shared an unusual amount of detail about the ship and the rest of its small intelligence fleet, now at about a half dozen vessels (the US has at least 15). That openness was probably for the deterrence factor: Beijing wants other navies know to that, should they operate in disputed waters, its forces will be able to detect them. Vessels like this one lack firepower but can be more dangerous than warships.

A (really) long-range air-to-air missile

Being able to hit enemy aircraft in a combat zone is expected. From well outside that zone? That’s a useful bonus. In January the state-run China Daily reported on a new, long-range air-to-air missile that could, a Chinese military researcher speculated, hit high-value targets like early-warning aircraft from up to 400 km (249 miles) away. That would be far better than China’s current range of less than 100 km for such missiles. It would also outdo US capabilities in that department—one where China might actually be in the lead.

Source: Quartz Media “China’s military tech is becoming less of a joke and more of a threat”

Note: This is Quartz Media’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


China launches first home-built aircraft carrier amid South China Sea tension


China’s first domestically built aircraft carrier is seen during its launching ceremony in Dalian, Liaoning province, China, April 26, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer

By Michael Martina | BEIJING Wed Apr 26, 2017 | 7:30am EDT

China launched its first domestically built aircraft carrier on Wednesday amid rising tension over North Korea and worries about Beijing’s assertiveness in the South China Sea.

State media has quoted military experts as saying the carrier, China’s second and built in the northeastern port of Dalian, is not expected to enter service until 2020, once it has been kitted out and armed.

Foreign military analysts and Chinese media have for months published satellite images, photographs and news stories about the second carrier’s development. China confirmed its existence in late 2015.

The launch “shows our country’s indigenous aircraft carrier design and construction has achieved major step-by-step results”, Xinhua news agency said.

State television showed the carrier, its deck lined in red flags, being pushed by tug boats into its berth.

Fan Changlong, a vice chairman of China’s powerful Central Military Commission, presided over the ceremony, Xinhua said, during which a bottle of champagne was broken on the bow.

The launch follows China’s celebration on Sunday of the 68th birthday of the founding of the Chinese navy, and comes amid renewed tensions between North Korea and the United States over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs.

Little is known about China’s aircraft carrier program, which is a state secret.

But the government has said the new carrier’s design draws on experiences from the country’s first carrier, the Liaoning, bought second-hand from Ukraine in 1998 and refitted in China.

The new conventionally powered carrier will be able to operate China’s Shenyang J-15 fighter jets.

Unlike the U.S. navy’s longer-range nuclear carriers, both of China’s feature Soviet-design ski-jump bows, intended to give fighter jets enough lift to take off from their shorter decks. But they lack the powerful catapult technology for launching aircraft of their U.S. counterparts.

“NO NEED” TO MATCH THE UNITED STATES

China’s navy has been taking an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and new Chinese warships popping up in far-flung places.

The Liaoning has taken part in military exercises, including in the South China Sea, but is expected to serve more as a training vessel. State media has said the new carrier will be more dedicated to military and humanitarian operations.

China claims almost all the South China Sea, believed to have huge deposits of oil and gas, through which about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year, and has been building up military facilities like runways on the islands it controls.

Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.

Taiwan, claimed by Beijing as its own, has said China is actually building two new aircraft carriers, but China has not officially confirmed the existence of another carrier.

Chinese state media has quoted experts as saying that the country needs at least six carriers. The United States operates 10 and plans to build two more.

Major General Chen Zhou, a researcher at the Academy of Military Science, told reporters in March that China would not exceed the United States in carrier groups. “China has no need for this,” he said.

Sam Roggeveen, a senior fellow at the Sydney-based Lowy Institute, said that by the time China had half that number, it could go toe-to-toe with the U.S. navy in the Asia-Pacific.

“Given that the Americans have global obligations and responsibilities but China doesn’t, then effectively by that point they would be evenly matched,” Roggeveen said.

Most experts agree that developing such a force will be a decades-long endeavor but the launch of the second carrier holds a certain prestige value for Beijing, seen by many analysts as keen to eventually erode U.S. military prominence in the region.

“With two aircraft carriers you could say without much fear of contradiction that China, other than the United States, is the most powerful maritime force in the Asia-Pacific,” Roggeveen said.

(Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Michael Perry and Nick Macfie)

Source: Reuters “China launches first home-built aircraft carrier amid South China Sea tension”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.