Officials Confirm Construction of First Domestic Chinese Aircraft Carrier

January 4, 2016 4:30 PM
Undated photo of Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning. PLA Photo
Undated photo of Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning. PLA Photo

China is in the midst of building its first domestic carrier, Ministry of National Defense officials confirmed last week.

During a press conference, spokesman Col. Yang Yuju told reporters construction was underway.

“After taking into account a range of factors, the relevant authorities launched work on developing a second aircraft carrier, and we are now undertaking our own indigenous design and construction,” he said, according to a translation of a Chinese language transcript of the Dec. 31 press conference.
“We have a long coastline and a broad maritime jurisdiction… Defending national maritime security, and safeguarding sovereignty over territorial seas and over maritime rights and interests, are sacred duties of China’s armed forces.”

Follow on reports from Chinese state-controlled press said the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s (PLAN) new carrier was to field its Shenyang J-15 Flying Shark – an unlicensed copy of the Russian Sukhoi Su-33 Flanker – displace about 50,000 tons and retain the short take-off but arrested recovery (STOBAR) configuration of its Soviet-era carrier test platform – Liaoning.

The decisions the Chinese made in their new carrier point to a measured approach to the new ship – Type 001A.

“Compared with China’s first carrier… the second carrier will have more mature technology and performance, with better coordination between its systems,” wrote China’s state controlled Xinhua news wire.

From the information released by Chinese media, the carrier will be mostly similar to the Kusetnov-class template of Liaoning and absent a catapult launching system.

An undated photo of Chinese J-15 fighter in tests aboard Liaoning. PLAN Photo
An undated photo of Chinese J-15 fighter in tests aboard Liaoning. PLAN Photo

“Future Chinese carriers will be fitted with catapults for fighter jets to take off on deck, but the process will be gradual since catapult take-off involves more complex technology,” wrote Xinhua.
The details of Type 001A confirms months of speculation and analysis around construction of a ship in a dry dock in China’s Dailan shipyard.

The construction of the ship resembled the builds of Soviet Kuznetsov-class carrier, reported Jane’s in September – a ship with a beam of 115 feet and a length of 866 feet.

Jane’s stopped short of declaring the ship the Type 001A but several experts confirmed to USNI News in September the ship was China’s first domestic carrier.

The unexpected confirmation of the Type 001A follows China’s irregular efforts of transparency in its military acquisition.

Buried in its 2010 Ocean Development Report, China declared it would pursue development of its own domestic carrier program. It took six months for the detail to make it into the Western press.

Two years ago, a Chinese party official declared construction of the first domestic aircraft carrier already underway with an eventual goal of four PLAN carriers but those comments were quickly scrubbed from state press.

A four-carrier force would mimic traditional carrier deployment patterns in which there are three carriers in maintenance or workups for every carrier deployed.

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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