A Chinese shipbuilder accidentally revealed its major navy plans

Nuclear submarines, giant aircraft carriers, robot warships.

By Jeffrey Lin and P.W. Singer March 16, 2018

Dalian Shipyard
Dalian Shipyard, part of CSIC, is where China’s first domestic carrier, CV-17, was built. It will also likely be the builder for China’s first, nuclear powered supercarrier.

For a brief moment, the China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC), put online China’s next big naval projects (but quickly pulled them down). The revelation, of which screenshots were taken before censors intervened, provided a picture of China’s ambitions for a world class navy.

Type 003
This new display at the Military Museum of the Chinese People’s Revolution, was newly installed for the PLA’s 90th anniversary. While it has speculative features like four catapults, J-20 fighters and stealthy UCAVs, the nuclear powered Type 003 supercarrier probably won’t enter service until after 2030.
Oedo Soldier

CSIC is a major shipbuilder for the People’s Liberation Army Navy, responsible for high ticket items like aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines. The biggest item in CSIC’s not-so-secret portfolio is China’s first nuclear-powered carrier. Popularly identified as the Type 003, it will be the largest non-American warship in the world when its launched in the late 2020s. CSIC’s Dalian Shipyard, which refurbished the aircraft carrier Liaoning, and launched China’s first domestically built carrier, CV-17, in 2017, will presumably build China’s first “Type 003” CVN.

The Type 003 will displace between 90,000-100,000 tons and have electromagnetically assisted launch system (EMALS) catapults for getting aircrafts off the deck. It’ll likely carry a large air wing of J-15 fighters, J-31 stealth fighters, KJ-600 airborne early warning and control aircraft, anti-submarine warfare helicopters, and stealth attack drones. When joined with Type 055 destroyers and next-generation attack submarines, it would provide the PLAN a highly capable task force for representing China on global missions.

The Type 095 SSN, seen in this speculative fanmade CGI, will likely have VLS cells for launching a wide range of cruise missiles, pumpjet propulsion and improved quieting technology. The first Type 095 will likely begin production in late 2017 at the giant new BSHIC factory, with many more to follow in the 2020s.

CSIC’s website also boasted that it would build a new nuclear-powered submarine, likely the Type 095 nuclear attack submarine (SSN). The Type 095 SSN would be built at CSIC’s Bohai Shipyard, which is China’s sole nuclear submarine shipyard. Compared to the Type 093 SSN, the Type 095 SSN will include new noise reduction measures, like an integrated electric propulsion system and possibly a shaftless rim drive, single hull, and electronic noise cancellation. CSIC is also working on a separate ‘quiet’ submarine project, presumably to be built at its Wuhan conventional submarine shipyard. This submarine is presumably quieter than the air-independent propulsion (AIP) Type 039B Yuan submarine; it’ll likely have quieting measures like a single hull, a new AIP system, and lithium-ion batteries. A new generation of Chinese submarines could help the PLAN remedy its historic technologic disadvantage against the submarines forces of the American and Japanese navies.

Large AUV
This large AUV, similar to the USN’s LDUUV, is used for long term autonomous missions; its size allows for it to carry modular payloads of sensors, mine warfare and ASW. It could be the precursor to larger Chinese armed UUVs carrying torpedoes and missiles.

The big CSIC announcement also covers 21st century naval wish lists, like autonomous robot submarines. This is the first official confirmation of China pursuing armed unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs), in addition to unmanned surface vehicles already offered for exports. Autonomous UUVs, armed with torpedoes and missiles, could act as expendable scouts or wingmen for manned Chinese submarines and surface warships, such as undertaking dangerous missions like probing enemy minefields, launching sneak attacks, and drawing away enemy forces.

Underwater Great Wall of China
The Underwater Great Wall may be centered around stationary sensors on the ocean bed, but autonomous UUVs will be a critical enabler in not just tracking enemy submarines, but finding them.

To defend Chinese home waters and expand the anti-access/area denial umbrella underwater, CSIC is designing an underwater attack and defense system. It could likely be an armed variant of the “Underwater Great Wall” of UUVs, other maritime robots and seafloor sensors. With built in modularity, it could be tailored to defend naval bases with surveillance UUVs and counter torpedo defenses on one end, and at the other end of the spectrum; a networked minefield of armed and smart UUVs supported by automated underwater listening posts. These capabilities would require not just the platforms, though; CSIC would need to master emerging technologies like underwater high capacity datalinks, combat AI, and multi-spectrum sensors.

Source: Popular Science “A Chinese shipbuilder accidentally revealed its major navy plans”

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


China Sets up Joint Venture to Build Floating Nuclear Reactor

Yongshu Reef (Fiery Cross Reef) airport needs lots of electric power along with other facilities on the artificial island. Photo: CCTV news

SCMP says in its report “Securing power in the South China Sea: Beijing’s plans for floating nuclear reactors get US$150 million boost”, “State-owned China National Nuclear Power announced on Thursday it was establishing the new company – with registered capital of one billion yuan (US$150 million) – in cooperation with Zhejiang Zheneng Electric Power, Shanghai Guosheng Group, Jiangnan Shipyard and Shanghai Electric.”

As China’s major shipyard Jiangnan Shipyard is a party to the joint venture, there is speculation that the joint venture will build floating nuclear reactors for China’s artificial islands on the South China Sea.

SCMP says, “In a separate notice the state power giant said the new company will also seek to promote the development of nuclear-powered vessels.”

Floating power station is certainly nuclear-powered so that the notice proves the above speculation. However, the nuclear-powered vessels may well be nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and other powerful warships.

Anyway, the new joint venture with the huge investment proves that China is making great efforts to provide nuclear power for its warships, islands and exploitation of maritime resources, etc.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on SCMP’s report, full text of which can be found at http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2106473/chinas-ambitions-develop-floating-nuclear-reactors.

China’s Unremitting Efforts to Build Nuclear Aircraft Carrier

A U.S. nuclear aircraft carrier

A U.S. nuclear aircraft carrier

There has been quite some news about China’s construction of its homegrown aircraft carriers. Some world media have even published photos of such carriers under construction. However, there has been doubt whether the Chinese carriers are nuclear ones.

China’s strategy is to substitute artificial islands for aircraft carriers. For defense of the part of the South China Sea it claims as its territorial waters, it needs at least 3 conventional aircraft carriers. However, China has built seven large artificial islands with at least three runways long enough for all kinds of its warplanes. The three airfields with such runways are much better than three aircraft carriers with the following advantages:

1. They are unsinkable;
2. They cost much less to build and maintain than aircraft carriers;
3. They can deploy more and larger and heavier AEW&C and anti-submarine aircrafts;
4. They can deploy much better and cheaper land-based air defense;
5. Much better anti-submarine facilities can be installed there;
6. They can also serve as naval bases for warships especially submarines;
7. Due to the above advantages, they are integrated air, naval and land military bases; and
8. They can also serve as bases for exploitation of natural resources such as oil, gas, other minerals and fishery, fish farming and tourism. As a result, they can bring income that is more than enough to cover the costs of their construction and maintenance.

On September 29, U.S. media Defense News published an article on China’s inability to build a nuclear aircraft carrier. In fact, China is even unable to build a satisfactory conventional aircraft carrier. For example, it may copy the design of its first carrier the Liaoning with the hull imported from Ukraine, but it is still unable to provide an AEW&C aircraft and train enough carrier-based pilots even for the Liaoning.

From that we can see Chinese strategists’ wisdom in substituting artificial islands for aircraft carriers for the defense of the South China Sea.

In the future, China certainly may need a nuclear aircraft carrier to protect its investment abroad, but it shall first have the capabilities to defend its nuclear aircraft carrier against the attack from U.S. superior navy; therefore, it has first to develop aerospace bombers and fourth-generation attack nuclear submarines to deal with dominant U.S. navy. Only when China has such weapons shall China build a nuclear aircraft carrier.

However, due to progress of technology, amphibious warship with VTOL fighter jets can also do the job; therefore, there is no urgency for China to build a nuclear aircraft carrier now.

Chinese military expert Hou Jianjun, a research fellow of a certain Chinese navy equipment research institute points out in an interview with China’s Science and Technology Daily in response to National Interest’s article that there are quite a few difficult technologies to master for the production of a nuclear aircraft carrier such as the nuclear fuel, the reactor, the steam generator, turbine and supporting auxiliary systems.

He said that some people may think that as China is able to make the nuclear reactors for its nuclear submarines, there will be no problem for China to make the nuclear reactors for its nuclear aircraft carriers. That is not true as a nuclear aircraft needs reactors much more powerful than that of a nuclear submarine.

He points out foreign media’s habits to either exaggerate China’s military capabilities to support their idea of “Chinese threat” or stress what China lacks to support their idea on “China’s backwardness” and gives readers the advice to ignore such reports.

However, he says that Chinese military equipment technical workers have been making unremitting efforts to make breakthroughs in the technologies for nuclear aircraft carriers.

Article by Chan Kai Yee in response to National Interest’s report with summary translation of Chinese media Science and Technology’s report “Expert: China is making efforsts for breakthroughs in quite a few key technologies for China’s nuclear aircraft carriers” in Chiense.

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

Revealed: China Can’t Build Lethal Nuclear Powered Aircraft Carriers
By Dave Majumdar on September 29, 2015

China may have started construction on its second aircraft carrier according to new satellite imagery. The images—which were obtained by the British defense trade journal IHS Jane’s from Airbus Defence and Space—shows that a new ship is under construction in the same dry dock that was used to refurbish the former Soviet carrier Varyag during its conversion into China’s Liaoning. This would be China’s first indigenous flattop—if it were indeed a carrier.

The Jane’s analysis indicates that the ship might be between 558ft and 885ft long with a beam greater than 98ft. That’s a little small for a conventional aircraft carrier—and the Jane’s analysts note that they can’t conclusively say the new ship is a carrier. But that length—assuming the Jane’s analysts are correct—would be about the same as India’s Vikramaditya. The beam, however, is somewhat narrow—most carriers are much wider—which means this could be an amphibious assault ship or something else entirely.

It should be no surprise that Beijing might be building new carriers. Indeed, 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.” Indeed, Taiwanese and Hong Kong media have reported that China could launch its first indigenous carrier —the Type 001A—on Dec. 26 to mark the 122th anniversary of Mao Zedong’s birthday. Chinese papers have also previously reported that an indigenous carrier is being built in Dalian.

While China might be building a new flattop, the vessel is likely to be much smaller than the U.S. Navy’s 100,000-ton Nimitz or Ford-class nuclear-powered carriers. The Chinese vessels will probably be smaller, conventionally-powered either by steam or diesel propulsion and probably will not have electromagnetic catapults.

The reason is simple—China does not have the experience in designing and building large military vessels the size of a carrier or amphibious assault ship. It lacks the requisite expertise in designing and building the propulsion systems for such a vessel. Further, China is lagging behind on metallurgy for the vessel’s hull. As for catapults—it took the U.S. Navy years to perfect steam catapults and the jury is still out on Ford’s Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS). Stealing technology can get Chinese engineers only so far—practical experience makes a difference.

China simply does not currently have the technology to build nuclear-powered carriers. Right now, the Chinese are struggling to build modern nuclear reactors for their submarine fleet. Indeed, Chinese nuclear submarines are comparable to 1970s vintage Soviet designs. China is nowhere near ready to scale up those designs to be suitable for a carrier.

Truth be told, Beijing seems to be aware of its shortcomings. Beijing-based Chinese naval expert Li Jie acknowledged the problem to the South China Morning Post late last year. “Compared with submarines, a carrier is much bigger,” Li told the Chinese daily. “It will take time for our nuclear engineers to develop a safe and powerful engine capable of driving a huge platform of more than 100,000 tonnes.”

It is conceivable that China might attempt to follow in the footsteps of the recently retired USS Enterprise (CVN-65), which used eight submarine reactors. The United States didn’t have the technology to build reactors suitable for an aircraft carrier when Enterprise was built. Instead the Navy opted for eight smaller reactors, but at the cost of a lot of space. The later Nimitz-class has two large reactors instead.

Meanwhile, China is still well behind the United States and Russia in terms of metallurgy and propulsion technologies. Chinese shipyards have had past issues with poor metallurgy for their earlier naval vessels—but China will probably solve the problem eventually. The Indians, who traditionally imported high-strength steel from Russia, have developed their own indigenous alloys. The Chinese will, no doubt, accomplish that same goal in time.

In terms of propulsion, the Chinese are still well behind the curve but it is one area where they can probably leverage experience with commercial maritime propulsion technologies. But they probably do not have the wherewithal to build propulsion systems that can support a carrier the size of a Nimitz—a smaller ship is thus a more likely prospect. “But as Marine gas turbines, like diesel design, have not been a bright spot in Chinese industry,” as Gabe Collins and Lt Cmdr. Michael Grubb note in a Naval War College study. “Their development has been severely hindered by the slow place of indigenous jet engine development, which is symptomatic of larger issues within the Chinese aerospace industry as a whole.”

As for catapults—the U.S. Navy has had a hard enough time with the EMALS—it is highly dubious that China could master the technology this quickly even if it stole the entirety of Naval Air Systems Command’s data on the program. Stealing technology is easier than truly understanding it from the ground up. It is probably why China has trouble building hardware such as jet engines and gas turbines. Nonetheless, some Chinese officials assert their carrier will have an electromagnetic catapult. Steam catapults are a more likely prospect, but can still be tricky. The smart money is on a pure ski-jump design.

Collins and Grubb accurately sum up the Chinese carrier question in this statement: “The production of [ultralarge crude oil carriers] demonstrates the ability of Chinese shipyards to build hulls of aircraft-carrier size and strength, but their ability to integrate the complex matrix of aircraft, catapults, arresting gear, weapons systems, and large propulsion plants required for an operational aircraft carrier remains in doubt.”

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

Details of China’s Two New Aircraft Carriers under Construction

Picture of China-made aircraft carrier drawn by a web user

Picture of China-made aircraft carrier drawn by a web user

Russian military-industrial complex news network said in its report on February 28: China plans to build two new aircraft carriers, one conventional and the other nuclear.
The first will be built at Dalian Shipyard of China Shipping Industry Corporation while the other will be built at Jiangnan Shipyard, Changxing Island, Shanhai.

Western media believe the first aircraft carrier codenamed Project 001A and Warship No. 018 will be 5% bigger in displacement than the Liaoning and have two steam catapults. The second codenamed Project 002 will be a nuclear one with a displacement 5% bigger than the first. It will be equivalent to USS Kitty Hawk in size and displacement with a full load displacement of 70,000 tons, 10,000 tons more than the Liaoning and have 4 steam catapults. In all China will build 4 new aircraft carriers.

Both new aircraft carriers are designed by China on the basis of the technological information of Soviet unfinished aircraft carrier Ulyanovsk.

Source: huanqiu.com “Russia says China’s homegrown aircraft carrier named the Shandong with displacement 5% bigger than the Liaoning” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the report in Chinese)

Related posts:

  • The Mystery of China’s Homegrown Aircraft Carriers dated October 3, 2012
  • New Aircraft Carrier Confirmed Being Built for China to Have at Least 4 Carriers dated January 18, 2014
  • Photo of China’s Second Aircraft Carrier under Construction to be launched in 2015 dated January 23, 2014
  • China to Build Aircraft Carrier Rival to the Ford but Lacks Wide Thick Steel Plates dated January 31, 2014
  • China’s Secret Plan to Build 6 Aircraft Carriers dated February 25, 2014

China’s Secret Plan to Build 6 Aircraft Carriers

Picture made by military fans of China's future aircraft carrier

Picture made by military fans of China’s future aircraft carrier

According to Russian media, China is fully confident in its ability to develop its aircraft carriers and has a secret plan to build 6 aircraft carriers and develop carrier-based J-20 and J-31 stealth fighter jets. China has begun building a homegrown aircraft carrier in a shipyard in Shanghai, which will absolutely be more advanced than its existing aircraft carrier the Liaoning. At least, there will be relatively great improvement in the aircrafts carried by the new carrier.

Russian media pointed out that China will first have two Liaoning-type aircraft carriers and then build 2 nuclear aircraft carriers.

According their reports, the number of aircraft carriers China has planned to have will be roughly equal to that of US Pacific Fleet to enable Chinese aircraft carriers to dominate the Pacific. However, such reports have not been confirmed by any Chinese official sources.

If what Russian media said is true, then China will undoubtedly become an aircraft carrier power second only to the United States and its aircraft carriers can at least dominate Western Pacific. However, when will Chinese aircraft carriers display their power?

Source: qianzhan.com “China has a secret plan to get 6 aircraft carriers with carrier-based J-20s and J-31s that shock the world” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the report in Chinese)

Related posts:

  • The Mystery of China’s Homegrown Aircraft Carriers dated October 3, 2012
  • New Aircraft Carrier Confirmed Being Built for China to Have at Least 4 Carriers dated January 18, 2014
  • Photo of China’s Second Aircraft Carrier under Construction to be launched in 2015 dated January 23, 2014
  • China to Build Aircraft Carrier Rival to the Ford but Lacks Wide Thick Steel Plates dated January 31, 2014
  • China to Use Integrated Full Electric Propulsion for its New Aircraft Carrier with Catapult dated February 3, 2014
  • China’s First Homegrown Aircraft Carrier Uses Electromagnetic Catapult dated February 24, 2014

China to Build USD5 Billion South China Sea Military Base at Fiery Cross Reef

Planned artificial island at Sourh China Sea

Planned artificial island at Sourh China Sea

Sources say due to changes in international situation and the need to resolve South China Sea issues, Chinese military has recently drawn up a plan to conduct reclamation at Mischief and Fiery Cross Reefs. The construction of the two artificial islands there will be equivalent to that for building an aircraft carrier, but the strategic gains will be very big.

Mischief reef will be a fishery center at the South China Sea to provide fishing and fish farming income enough to recover the construction costs so that the construction of the artificial islands will not be a financial burden on the state.

The artificial island at Fiery Cross Reef will be an unreplaceable military base with great strategic significance due to its location and size. Such a base will realize the value of the South China Sea for China and ensure China’s status in South East Asia.

It is planned that the military base built through reclamation at Fiery Cross Reef will be 3 meters above sea level and has an area of 5 square kilometers. The construction of the base will cost US$5 billion and take 10 years similar to the construction of a 100,000-ton nuclear aircraft carrier.

If this plan is adopted by the government instead of the plan to seize the Zhongye Island back from the Philippines, there will be no war at the South China Sea to affect China’s relations with the US and ASEAN.

Source: qianzhan.com “Revelation of China’s plan on US$5 billion ‘super aircraft carrier’, a shocking deployment at South China Sea”

Related posts:

  • US Not Willing to Be Drawn into War by Japan or Philippines dated February 11, 2014
  • US general criticises Japan, Philippines’ anti-China views dated February 10, 2014/2/12
  • Aquino Desperate in Hinting UN, ASEAN Appeasing China dated February 6, 2014
  • The US Will Be the Biggest Winner if Japan Is Defeated by China in the War dated February 5, 2014

China to Build Aircraft Carrier Rival to the Ford but Lacks Wide Thick Steel Plates

The Ford of the United States

The Ford of the United States

Fu Jie, a metal expert of the Expert Committee of the Chinese Society for Metals recently published an article on China Science Daily on the wide thick steel plates required in producing an aircraft carrier similar to the Ford, US newest most advanced aircraft carrier.

According to the expert, China shall make aircraft carriers similar to the Ford as it shall have the best carriers in the world for maintaining peace and exploiting deep- sea resources far away. For such carriers, China have to be able to produce quality wide thick steel plates for their decks and hulls and be able to weld them and provide coating for them.

The steel must be strong, tough, corrosion-resistant and easy to weld, have long service life and incur relatively low cost to produce.

First, China has already been a leader in the word in producing large steel ingot with its electroslag re-smelting technology. In developing the wide thick steel plates, China shall apply such technology and further develop it as the ingot produced by such technology has good functions and reliability.

Second, the research achievement in China’s Project 973 shall be exploited in the comprehensive treatment of the steel to make it stronger and tougher.

Zhejiang has promised to produce the ingot within six months. The ingots shall be made into wide thick steel plates in the 5-meter steel plate rolling mill at Baoshan Iron and Steel Co., Ltd. in Shanghai.

Fu believes with cooperation among Beijing University of Science and Technology, Northeast University, General Iron & Steel Research Institute and Beijing General Research Institute of Mining & Metallurgy, wide thick steel plates for nuclear aircraft carriers can be produced within 2 years. In that process, China needs the assistance from the experts from Ukraine, the country that built Soviet aircraft carriers and is the first to have developed electroslag smelting technology.

Source: huanqiu.com “Chinese metal expert: For nuclear aircraft carrier, China has to break the bottleneck related to wide thick steel plates”

Related posts

  • The Mystery of China’s Homegrown Aircraft Carriers dated October 3, 2012
  • China: Steel Plates and Welding, Bottlenecks in Building Its Aircraft Carriers dated December 11, 2012
  • Photos of the Electromagnetic Catapult for China’s Next Aircraft Carrier dated January 15, 2013
  • New Aircraft Carrier Confirmed Being Built for China to Have at Least 4 Carriers dated January 18, 2014
  • Photo of China’s Second Aircraft Carrier under Construction to be launched in 2015 dated January 23, 2014