China steps up shipbuilding with two more aircraft carriers under construction towards 2035 navy goal


  • As China aims to equal US naval strength in the Pacific, its first domestically developed carrier begins final assembly process
  • Type 002 vessels will have advanced electromagnetic aircraft launch system allowing faster and more frequent take-off
Photos taken by military enthusiasts and posted on social media show the Type 002 aircraft carrier under construction in a dry dock in Jiangnan Shipyard outside Shanghai. Photo: Weibo

China is expected to launch its next-generation aircraft carrier within a year and construction on a sister ship for the new giant vessel has been hastened, two sources close to the projects said.

The Type 002 aircraft carrier – the country’s third carrier and the second to be domestically developed – has started the final assembly process, two independent sources told the South China Morning Post.

“Assembly of the new aircraft carrier has begun and is expected to be completed in the first half of next year, because the Covid-19 pandemic slowed down progress,” said the first source, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

“Workers are also starting the keel-laying for the new carrier’s sister ship. Both ships have been built by the Jiangnan Shipyard outside Shanghai.” Laying the keel is deemed the official start of construction on a new ship.

“Construction for the second Type 002 will be faster than the first one because workers have learned and overcome a lot of problems building the first one,” the second source said. “It’s a challenging job because the Type 002 is our country’s first domestically designed aircraft carrier.”

previous satellite images taken in April 2019

by the US think tank the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

Liaoning

and

Shandong

ships.

Unlike the first two Russian-designed Type 001 aircraft carriers that were equipped with ski-jump ramps, the new vessel will have the world’s most advanced electromagnetic aircraft launch system, equal to that used by the US Navy’s new-generation Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier.

The electromagnetic take-off technology means less wear and tear on the aircraft and allows more planes to be launched in a shorter time than the ski-jump system.

Hong Kong-based military commentator Liang Guoliang said the Type 002 was not expected to be nuclear-powered because so far only Chinese submarines had used the technology and none of its surface warships were nuclear-powered.

“The nuclear-powered technology is designed for China’s fifth aircraft carrier, which is likely to be built in the Dalian Shipbuilding yard,” Liang said, referring to the manufacturer that built the Shandong ship.

The new Type 002 aircraft carrier – to be the Chinese navy’s third – has entered key assembly process in a dry dock in Jiangnan Shipyard outside Shanghai. Photo: Weibo
The new Type 002 aircraft carrier – to be the Chinese navy’s third – has entered key assembly process in a dry dock in Jiangnan Shipyard outside Shanghai. Photo: Weibo

A top engineer, Ma also developed the insulated-gate bipolar transistor (IGBT) chip, a key component of high-efficiency electric energy conversion systems. Liang said it prompted President Xi Jinping, who also chairs the CMC, to make changes to the aircraft carrier design because IGBT would better support the conventionally-powered ships using the more powerful and advanced electromagnetic launch systems.

Liang said he expected that a

new stealth carrier-based fighter jet

designed for the Type 002 would make its debut when the first advanced warship was ready to be launched next year.

However, Zhou Chenming, a researcher from the Yuan Wang think tank, a Beijing-based military science and technology institute, said the Type 002 carrier would continue to carry the J-15 ship-borne fighter jet, which is now flying on the decks of the Liaoning and Shandong.

China bought its first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, from Ukraine in 1998 and spent eight years retrofitting it. The ship is the only Chinese carrier to have reached initial operational capability (IOC), the basic requirement for warships. The Shandong is expected to meet IOC standard next year.

Zhou said the Liaoning had been used as a training platform for crew members of China’s new aircraft carrier strike groups.

“The Liaoning is too old to be a warship as its hull was built in 1985. China’s blue-water navy should be based on the new-generation carrier strike groups like Type 002, or even future Type 003 carriers, and other advanced warships,” Zhou said.

China plans to build at least

six aircraft battle groups for the water by 2035

, as the Asian giant tries to equal US naval strength in the Pacific region.

“China has three fleets to take care of the Yellow Sea, East and South China seas, with each fleet demanding two aircraft carriers,” Zhou said.

“Unlike the US Navy which has a global strategy, all China’s aircraft carriers can only be used for offshore defence because of China’s geographic location, where all neighbours keep a close eye on it.”

The United States remains the world’s strongest naval force and has 11 carriers, with two more under construction.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: New aircraft carrier expected to launch within a year

Source: SCMP “China steps up shipbuilding with two more aircraft carriers under construction towards 2035 navy goal”

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


Disclosure of Details of China’s First Homegrown Aircraft Carrier


The Star discloses in its report “Details of new Chinese aircraft carrier revealed in sea trial footage” based on CCTV report that China’s first homegrown aircraft carrier has a displacement of 70,000 tons greater than the 58,600 tons of the Liaoning in service of PLAN, but a little slower with a speed of 31 knots than Liaoning’s 32 knots.

Other improvements include a bigger hangar that can accommodate up to 32 J-15 fighter jets, six more than the Liaoning and a two-level bridge with bigger windows.

The ship underwent its recent fifth sea trial of full test and demonstration of its command system and combat capabilities from February 27 to March 5 while its docking, power, combat and logistics functions have already been fully tested in previous sea trials.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on The Star’s report, full text of which can be viewed at https://www.thestar.com.my/news/regional/2019/04/22/details-of-new-chinese-aircraft-carrier-revealed-in-sea-trial-footage-aired-on-state-tv/.


China Developing New Fighter Jet for Aircraft Carrier to Replace J-15


Mil.huanqiu.com says in its report yesterday that according to various foreign media’s analyses, China is developing a new carrier-based fighter jet to replace J-15 that the Liaoning uses.

According to SCMP’s report on July 5 Lieutenant General Zhang Honghe, deputy head of the PLA Air Force, told SCMP that China is developing a “new carrier-based fighter to replace the J-15” but no details have been given.

Chinese military expert Li Jie believes that FC-31, the second type of stealth fighter jet China is developing, is the right stealth fighter jet to replace J-15. It is smaller and lighter with weapons hidden inside.

However, there have always been various different opinions. Some speculate that a carrier-based version of J-20 will be developed for China’s future fleets of aircraft carrier. J-20 is more powerful than FC-31 (J-31) to deal with US F-35 and F-22. It will enable China’s carrier fleets to be a real blue sea navy.

Source: mil.huanqiu.com “China developing new type of carrier-based fighter jet? Expert: J-31 will hopefully replace J-15” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the report in Chinese, full text of which can be viewed at http://mil.huanqiu.com/world/2018-07/12430514.html


China’s Liaoning aircraft carrier conducts first live-fire drill as Beijing shows off military might


Two J-15 fighters about to launch from the desk of the Liaoning during the drill. Photo: AFP

Two J-15 fighters about to launch from the desk of the Liaoning during the drill. Photo: AFP

Missiles are fired from the Liaoning aircraft carrier during its first live-fire drill. Photo: AFP

Missiles are fired from the Liaoning aircraft carrier during its first live-fire drill. Photo: AFP

A J-15 fighter jet fires a missile during the drill. Photo: chinanews.com

A J-15 fighter jet fires a missile during the drill. Photo: chinanews.com

The above photos are taken from SCMP’s report today. According to SCMP CCTV broadcasted a footage of China’s first aircraft carrier’s first life-fire drill. SCMP’s report “China’s Liaoning aircraft carrier conducts first live-fire drill as Beijing shows off military might” today shows the CCTV footage.

SCMP says, “During the drill, the Liaoning and several destroyers carried out tasks including an air interception, a sea assault, and anti-air and anti-missile exercises, aided by ­J-15 carrier-borne fighters. According to CCTV, the ­J-15s launched several missiles, which all hit their targets.

Full text and the footage can be found at http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2055138/chinas-liaoning-aircraft-carrier-conducts-first-live.

Source: SCMP “China’s Liaoning aircraft carrier conducts first live-fire drill as Beijing shows off military might”


Be Proud instead of Ashamed of the Ability to Copy Others’ Weapons


I often got angry comments from my readers on foreign media’s allegations that China’s advanced weapons are but copies of others’ advanced weapons. Those readers are certainly pro-Beijing and are, therefore, unhappy when others tried to depreciate China’s achievements.

However, I believe that instead of being upset, they shall be proud of China’s ability to copy others’ advanced weapons.

Copying Is by No Means Easy

First page of Liu Gongquan's well-known Xuanmi Tower inscription

First page of Liu Gongquan’s well-known Xuanmi Tower inscription

When I was young more than six decades ago, great importance was attached to an educated person’s handwriting. We primary school students had to hand in one page of Chinese traditional handwriting done with brush everyday that copied from the calligraphy of well-known Tang Dynasty (618-907) masters. For six years I copied Liu Gongquan’s well-known Xuanmi Tower inscription, first page of which is shown above. I am no calligraphy lover but was quite satisfied with my handwriting as it looked quite similar to Liu’s calligraphy until I was criticized in secondary school by a classmate who was a calligraphy fan. He said that my handwriting was similar to Liu’s only in appearance but not in spirit. It lacked the force in Liu’s calligraphy. The result of my six year of hard copying of Liu’s calligraphy is quite poor.

Copying Advanced Weapons Extremely Difficult if Not Impossible

Copying an advanced weapon is far more difficult as unlike calligraphy that shows everything on the surface, one shall have thorough knowledge of what he copies and the industrial capacities to produce the materials and parts for that in order to make copies that are similar to the weapon in advanced functions and performance rather than appearance.

Mil.news.sina.com.cn says in its article on November 12 that Russian political and military expert Alexander Khramchikhin has published two articles on Russia’s Military-Industrial Courier weekly on China’s efforts in copying Russian warplanes.

He says the aircraft manufacturers in northern China remains at the stage of copying Russian fighter jets. It is quite difficult to make real breakthrough in tackling technological difficulties and obtaining the ability to assimilate and apply the technology in China’s own ways. It is especially so in really beginning some improvement in the copy. For example in designing the wings of China’s J-15 carrier-based fighter jet by copying Russian Su-33, China found it very difficult to improve the wings.

For another example, J-16 was developed after China had fully studied and learnt from Russian Su-27 series of fighter jets. China conducted profound improvement on the basis of Russian Sukhoi Su-30MKK. However, five years after J-16’s maiden flight, mass production of it has not begun yet.

Why? Even the successful production of a prototype and finalization of the design of J-16 is not the end of trouble. Khramchikhin points out that China has to standardize the warplane’s parts and components and make lots of modes and special production devices for mass production of the warplane. It takes a lot of time to do so.

China copies a Russian warplane after it has bought the warplane and dismantled, studied and analyzed it in details fully. Still, the reverse engineering is very difficult. In fact, quite a few countries have imported advanced Russian warplanes but none of them except China are able to copy the warplanes.

As for the allegation that China has copied US stealth fighter jets F-35, F-22, etc. that China cannot buy any, not even come close to study them. As a Chinese, I will be really happy if China is able to copy them. Copying Russian warplane is so difficult when China is able to have one and dismantle it to study it in details closely.

If Chinese engineers had been able to make a copy of the best of US warplanes based merely on some stolen documents, they would have indeed been very rare geniuses. I would have been really happy that China has such wonderful copy masters.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on mil.news.sina.com.cn article “Depth column: Russian expert’s analysis of the reasons why China has not commissioned its J-16 fighter jet yet”.


China says aircraft carrier now ready for combat


FILE - In this May 2012 file photo provided by China’s Xinhua News Agency, Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning cruises for a test in the sea. The Liaoning’s political commissar Senior Captain Li Dongyou said China’s first aircraft carrier is now ready to engage in combat, marking a milestone for a navy that has invested heavily in its ability to project power far from China’s shores. (Xinhua, Li Tang, File/Associated Press)

FILE – In this May 2012 file photo provided by China’s Xinhua News Agency, Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning cruises for a test in the sea. The Liaoning’s political commissar Senior Captain Li Dongyou said China’s first aircraft carrier is now ready to engage in combat, marking a milestone for a navy that has invested heavily in its ability to project power far from China’s shores. (Xinhua, Li Tang, File/Associated Press)

In its Situation Report, Foreign Policy says that it was surprised by China’s announcement yesterday that its aircraft carrier is ready for combat. So was Washington Post in its report yesterday.

In fact, China has not directly made such an announcement. Foreign Policy says China has made such an announcement based on the report on Global Times’ interview with the carrier’s political commissar Li Dongyou, who said in the interview that the ship is “constantly prepared to fight against enemies.”

The US must be surprised because China previously described the Liaoning carrier as a platform for testing and training. US military experts predicted lots of China’s problems in producing carrier-based fighter jets, training pilots for the jets, etc. Even the arrest cable for landing of the fighter jets may be a serious headache.

That is why both Foreign Policy and Washington Post regard Li’s words as surprise announcement in their reports.

Surprise is natural as the US always underestimates China’s ability. However both media are wrong in predicting that the carrier will be used “to reinforce” (Washington Post’s wording) or in “underscoreing” (Foreign Policy’s wording) China’s claims in the South China Sea challenged by U.S. Navy and others.

The Liaoning deploys only 24 J-15s that will not be fully armed due to sky-jump takeoff. The three airports on China’s artificial islands in the South China Sea may accommodate at least 12 dozens of J-20 heavy stealth fighter jets there with much greater fire power. Moreover, China will soon deploy its J-10C stealth fighter jets with entirely new stealth technology completely different from US one.

J-10C instead of J-15 will be able to win dogfight against US F-22 due to its super maneuverability.

Dogfight capability is not necessary for a stealth fighter jet in dealing with a non-stealth one, but is indispensable for a stealth fighter jet in fighting another stealth fighter jet. As F-35 is not designed for fighting a stealth fighter and is a lighter warplane unable to carry better radar, it is utterly no rival to China’s J-20 and J-10C. Only F-22 may be able to contend with J-20 and J-10C, but without ground support near China, it has great disadvantage.

Since China has built three large unsinkable fixed aircraft carriers on its artificial islands in the South China Sea, it needs no aircraft carriers there, especially the Liaoning that is much inferior to US ones.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Foreign Policy and Washington Post’s reports, full text of which can be viewed respectively at https://mail.google.com/mail/#inbox/1586822dc8796243 and https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/china-says-aircraft-carrier-now-ready-for-combat/2016/11/15/748addc8-aaf4-11e6-8f19-21a1c65d2043_story.html


Jane’s: China flight testing modified J-15 for CATOBAR operations


Airbus Defence and Space imagery showing a Chinese navy shore-based catapult test and training complex under construction at Huangdicun Airbase. Source: CNES 2016, Distribution Airbus DS / 2016 IHS

Airbus Defence and Space imagery showing a Chinese navy shore-based catapult test and training complex under construction at Huangdicun Airbase. Source: CNES 2016, Distribution Airbus DS / 2016 IHS

This image shows what appear to be modifications to the front undercarriage of a Chinese carrier-based J-15 fighter that could enable the aircraft to conduct catapult-assisted take-offs. (Via CJDBY web page)

This image shows what appear to be modifications to the front undercarriage of a Chinese carrier-based J-15 fighter that could enable the aircraft to conduct catapult-assisted take-offs. (Via CJDBY web page)

Richard D Fisher Jr, Washington DC and Gabriel Dominguez, London and Sean O’Connor, Indianapolis – IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly

21 September 2016

China has been flight testing a new variant of its J-15 navalised fighter modified for catapult-assisted take-off but arrested recovery (CATOBAR) operations, according to images posted on Chinese online forums.

Released on 15 September, the images show a Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC) J-15 in flight featuring what appear to be modifications to its front undercarriage that would enable the aircraft to conduct catapult-assisted take-offs: yet another indication that China may be planning to develop a CATOBAR aircraft carrier.

Expectations that China’s third carrier, which is commonly referred to as the Type 002, will be equipped with catapults were reinforced in early August when images emerged on Chinese online forums showing the country’s land-based aircraft carrier mock-up in Wuhan, Hubei Province, undergoing modifications.

Most significantly, the ski-jump section had been removed from the mock-up.

Construction of China’s third carrier is expected to take place at the Jiangnan Changxingdao shipyard near Shanghai. So far there has been no official confirmation of the programme, nor visible evidence of the construction, but there has been considerable speculation that production of the initial modules is already in progress.

Airbus Defence and Space imagery captured on 20 June 2016 already showed that significant progress was being made on two land-based catapult tracks for testing and training.

Constructed at the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) carrier air wing training facility at Huangdicun Airbase, the two tracks consist of a steam-powered track and an electromagnetic catapult track placed at the northeastern end of a new runway under construction. Installation of both suggests that a final decision on which system to adopt may not yet have been taken.

Source: IHS 360 Jane’s “China flight testing modified J-15 for CATOBAR operations”

Note: This is IHS 360 Jane’s report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


China’s Aircraft Carrier Has More J-15s and Qualified Pilots


Busy taking off of J-15 from China's aircraft carrier the Liaoning. Mil.huanqiu.com photo

Busy taking off of J-15 from China’s aircraft carrier the Liaoning. Mil.huanqiu.com photo

According to China’s official media’s report on August 22, through excellent land-based training, a new group of J-15 pilots have recently passed tests of taking off and landing during the recent training on China’s aircraft carrier the Liaoning and obtained qualification for carrier pilots. That has greatly enhanced the carrier’s combat capabilities as there is also substantial increase in J-15 fighter jets on the ship.

Mil.huanqiu.com says that the success in training those carrier pilots is also a milestone in China’s development of aircraft carriers.

Source: mil.huanqiu.com “A new group of carrier-based aircraft pilots have taken off and landed on aircraft carrier to further enhance the combat capabilities of the Liaoning” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the report in Chinese)


China to Have Carrier-based J-11B Fighter Jets for its Carriers


J-11B taking off from simulated ski-jump deck. Photo from the mil.news.sina.com.cn article

J-11B taking off from simulated ski-jump deck. Photo from the mil.news.sina.com.cn article

Chinese website mil.news.sina.com.cn posted the above photo of successful takeoff of a J-11B from a simulated ski-jump aircraft carrier deck to prove that J-11B can be successfully modified into a carrier-based fighter jet.

The website’s article on that topic says that as F-22 has already been deployed in Asia, China’s priority is to develop a air superiority stealth fighter jet to counter F-22. As a result, China lacks the resources to develop a fighter jet specially for its aircraft carriers. A carrier-based version of J-11B is the best alternative as it uses China’s homegrown WS-10 engines while J-10 uses imported Russian engines.

J-11B has a range of 1,000 km so that it can stay for 2 hours 250 km away from the carrier. It is satisfactory in takeoff weight for carrying six air-to-air missiles

Certainly, there must be modification to enable J-11B to function on an aircraft carrier, but the photo shows that China is making efforts to get the best possible carrier-based fighter jet.

Source: mil.news.sina.com.cn “Disclosure of the photo of ski-jump takeoff of J-11B fighter: Its test flight performance is as good as J-15” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on he article in Chinese)


China Has to Speed up Training of Carrier-based Aircraft Pilots


Quick take-off of J-15s one after another from the Liaoning

Quick take-off of J-15s one after another from the Liaoning

China has publicly confirmed that it is building its second aircraft carrier, but its major problem as pointed out in my previous posts is the training of enough pilots for its carrier-based J-15 fighter jets.

US media National Interest said in its report “Exposed: China’s J-15 Flying Sharks Train Onboard Carrier Liaoning” on December 29, “China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is making great strides in developing its carrier-based aviation proficiency. Recently, the PLAN finished qualifying a new batch of naval aviators flying the Shenyang J-15 Flying Shark onboard its sole carrier Liaoning in the Bohai Bay.”

However, the actual number of naval aviators China has qualified for J-15 is 20-odd according to the report on mil.huanqiu.com, the military forum of China’s official media Global Times, titled “Combat capabilities of the Liaoning has gradually taken shape: Tens of pilots have successfully taken off and landed on the carrier” on December 31.

That is far from enough. The Liaoning alone needs 36 pilots for its 24 J-15s.

Taking into consideration that China built a mock pilot training deck on land in 2009 to train pilots for the aircraft carrier and the Liaoning was commissioned in September 2012, the training has not been proceeding fast enough for the homegrown carriers China is building and plans to build. That is a usual teething problem for any country that begins to deploy aircraft carriers.

Another problem for the Liaoning is its lack of fixed wing AEW&C aircrafts as so far China’s AEW&C aircrafts are too heavy to make ski-jump take-off on the carrier. China has to deploy early warning helicopters on the ship that cannot fly high enough to detect threat from far away. The ship has to rely on land-based AEW&C aircrafts for protection.

Due to that problem, China’s existing and first homegrown aircraft carriers with ski-jump take-off are not blue-sea aircraft carriers unless China can greatly reduce the weight of its AEW&C aircrafts.

Summary and comments by Chan Kai Yee on National Interest and Global Times’ reports.

The following is the full text of National Interest’s report:

Exposed: China’s J-15 Flying Sharks Train Onboard Carrier Liaoning

China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is making great strides in developing its carrier-based aviation proficiency. Recently, the PLAN finished qualifying a new batch of naval aviators flying the Shenyang J-15 Flying Shark onboard its sole carrier Liaoning in the Bohai Bay.

According to the state-owned news agency Xinhua, J-15 pilots flew touch-and-goes, missed approaches and practiced other contingencies for carrier-based operations. Members of China’s Central Military Commission, PLAN commander Wu Shengli and PLAN political commissar Miao Hua were onboard the refurbished Soviet-built carrier to observe the training operations.

Unlike previous photos and video of Chinese carrier operations—the PLAN J-15 were painted in operational colors rather than flight-test schemes. Moreover, the aircraft were shown operating at dusk rather than just daylight hours. Nor was the carrier always sailing in calm seas—some of the operations were during inclement weather.

Further, many of the aircraft were shown launching and recovering onboard Liaoning loaded with inert weapons. Some of the jets were shown to be carrying a pair of active-radar guided PL-12 medium range air-to-air missiles and a pair of PL-8 short-range infrared-guided missiles. The PLAN also showed off its ability to launch and recover multiple jets quickly and its aircraft handling both above and below decks.

While it is no surprise that China has been making progress with Liaoning and its air wing, the latest images show the PLAN’s rapid progress in learning the art of carrier aviation. Indeed, Liaoning was always thought to be a training ship to be used in preparation for the arrival of China’s first indigenous carrier.

Work is continuing on China’s first indigenous carrier at the Dalian shipyard where Liaoning was refurbished. Not much is known about the new the Type 001A design, but it is likely to resemble the refurbished Russian-designed vessel or possibly the larger more sophisticated Ulyanovsk design—which was not completed before the collapse of the Soviet Union. However, current imagery seems to indicate a vessel that is similar in size to Liaoning.

The Pentagon’s 2015 annual report to Congress on Chinese military power states: “China also continues to pursue an indigenous aircraft carrier program and could build multiple aircraft carriers over the next 15 years.” Thus, we could be witnessing the beginnings of a powerful new Chinese carrier fleet.

Dave Majumdar is the defense editor for The National Interest. You can follow him on Twitter: @davemajumdar.