China’s new ‘002’ aircraft carrier to pack more air power

China’s new ‘002’ aircraft carrier to pack more air power
China’s Liaoning aircraft carrier with accompanying fleet conducting a drill in the South China Sea. The latest aircraft carrier, the Type 002, will be capable of servicing bigger aircraft. Photo: Reuters
Published: 4:00 AM, February 14, 2017

HONG KONG — China’s third aircraft carrier will be more capable than its predecessors because it will have a flight-deck configuration that enables the launching of aircraft with better combat attributes.

The People’s Liberation Army Navy (Plan)’s third carrier — the Type 002 platform — will have the catapult-assisted take-off but with arrested recovery (Catobar) flight-deck configuration. Aircraft launched from such a system can carry more ordnance and can fly farther compared to that launched via the short take-off but arrested recovery (Stobar) configuration found in China’s first two carriers.

All 10 of America’s carriers in service incorporate this system. On the other hand, China’s sole operational carrier, the Liaoning, has a “ski-jump” flight deck that enables only Stobar aerial operations. Beijing’s second carrier, the Type 001A or the Shandong, will have a similar system.

“This is … a breakthrough compared with the Liaoning and the Type 001A carrier, both of which are equipped with ski-jump flight decks, a source close to the Plan told the South China Morning Post (SCMP).

“It will (also) take a few years for the newest carrier to enter full service after its launch, as it takes two or three years to train carrier-based pilots,” the source added.

Hong Kong-based military expert Liang Guoliang told SCMP that Beijing plans to have two Type 002 carriers, each of which would have a displacement of 85,000 tonnes, making them second in size only to the US Navy’s Nimitz- and Ford-class platforms that weigh some 100,000 tonnes.

The Liaoning displaces about 55,000 tonnes, while the corresponding figure for the Shandong is 70,000 tonnes.

China has invested billions of dollars in an ambitious military modernisation programme, especially its navy. Beijing wants to develop “blue water” naval capabilities to protect the trade lanes on which the country’s economy depends, to defend the interests of its citizens overseas and uphold its global obligations.

The Liaoning, which was bought and brought from Ukraine in 1998 and later refitted, was part of the navy fleet conducting drills in the South China Sea in December.

Several weeks ago, Chinese media reported that the Shandong was “taking shape” after two years and nine months of construction, but it did not provide further details, such as when the carrier would be completed.

Macau-based military observer Antony Wong Dong said China’s limited production capacity of the carrier-based J-15 fighter jet might delay the Shandong’s coming-into-service date.

“The Liaoning was designed to carry up to one aviation regiment, or 24 carrier-based fighters,” he said.

“But the vessel so far has got only about 20 carrier-based J-15 because the (state-owned) Aeroengine Corporation has not yet developed a reliable replacement for the Russian-produced AL-31 models.

“It’s likely that the Type 001A will face the same problems as the Liaoning.”

Construction of the conventionally powered Type 002 began in 2015, and it is expected to be launched in 2021. AGENCIES