China Wants a Four Carrier Navy, Maybe

January 22, 2014 2:46 PM - Updated: September 30, 2015 6:22 PM
An undated photograph onboard the Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning during a take-off and landing test. Xinhua News Agency Photo
An undated photograph onboard the Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning during a take-off and landing test. Xinhua News Agency Photo

China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has designs on a force of four aircraft carriers, according to statements from Chinese officials in Chinese state media that were later deleted.

Liaoning party chief Wang Min told a local legislative body on Saturday construction had begun on a second carrier in the Dalian shipyard and the PLAN ultimately planned to build four carriers in comments reported in state media that were subsequently taken down, according a report in the South China Morning Post.

Wang said the second carrier could be completed in six years.
The statements and their pull back are indicative of inconstancies in China’s expressed intentions for their future forces

In 2010 China said to begin a major carrier construction plan contained in a footnote as part of the hundreds of pages long 2010 Ocean Development Report.

“In 2009, China put forward an idea and plan for building aircraft carriers. These indicate China has entered the historical era of building a maritime superpower,” read a translation of the report.

The inclusion of the carrier plan — buried in a public document — was viewed largely as an ineffectual attempt of transparency.

Likewise, Wang’s statement is thought to be less of a message to the international maritime community and more of a communication to locals on the ability of China’s shipyards to be able to meet the challenge of constructing conventionally built carriers.

“Wang’s public disclosure of a second carrier being built in Dalian could be seen as a pitch for PLA military business,” reported Jane’s Defence Weekly in a Tuesday analysis of the announcement.
“Wang represents the interests of the Dalian-area carrier construction complex, which also includes China’s first carrier air wing testing training base and submarine- and future ship-based nuclear propulsion development institutes.”

Wang also mentioned the construction of two 052D guided missile destroyers.
The aircraft carriers are expected to be similar to existing PLAN carrier Liaoning, which underwent an extensive refit in Dalian.

“Dalian is expected to produce a ski-jump or short take-off but arrested landing (STOBAR) carrier similar to Liaoning. The shipyard is a logical first choice due to its deep familiarity with Liaoning and the proximity of much of China’s aircraft carrier support infrastructure,” the Jane’s report.

A four-carrier force could indicate the Chinese plan to eventually have at least one standing carrier strike group on patrol at any given time.

Images of Chinese carrier operations indicate that they have incorporated much of the U.S. and allies techniques in operating carriers — down to the color of the uniforms for flight deck crew.

Taken a step further, the four-carrier force would mimic the U.S. ratio for carrier’s operations. — three in port to one at sea.

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone is the editor of USNI News. He has covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services since 2009 and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.
Follow @samlagrone

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