China Launches First Domestically Constructed Aircraft Carrier

Adjust Comment Print

In this photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, a newly-built aircraft carrier is transferred from dry dock into the water at a launch ceremony at a shipyard in Dalian in northeastern China's Liaoning Province, Wednesday, April 26, 2017.

The 70,000-tonne carrier was towed from its dockyard just after 9am yesterday following a ceremony in the northern port city of Dalian, where its predecessor, the Soviet-built Liaoning, also underwent extensive refurbishing before being commissioned in 2012, the Ministry of National Defence said.

China started developing the 001A in November 2013, and building it in the dock in March 2015. The main body of the carrier has been completed, with major systems equipment installed.

The country unveiled its first domestically built aircraft carrier in 2015, but the Wall Street Journal said in 2016 that top USA naval engineers discovered the carrier wouldn't be operational for up to a decade.

China claims nearly all of the South China Sea. Both ships suffer some of the limitations inherent in the design, including a ski jump-style launching system that limits the amount of fuel and bombs its Chinese J-15 fighters can carry.

The launch had been well-flagged as foreign military analysts and Chinese media have for months published satellite images, photographs and news stories about the second carrier's development.

"With each new aircraft carrier, China is sending a signal that it has no peer among its neighbors", Patrick M. Cronin, the director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for New American Security in Washington, told the New York Times.

As India struggles to finish construction of its first home-grown aircraft carrier, the Vikrant, China has launched its first domestically designed and built aircraft carrier.

The SCMP recalls Japan's anger when the Liaoning first ventured into the western Pacific a year ago; the Associated Press notes that Japan, India, and Taiwan have grown interested in building the kind of submarine that excels at sinking aircraft carriers. However, not much is known about the country's domestic aircraft carrier programme as it is a state secret.

The BBC observes that China's carriers are "technologically inferior" to the ten carriers now operated by the United States Navy, relying on conventional instead of nuclear power, but still represent a major step forward in both technological innovation and military power for China.

The possession of a native aircraft carrier places China among the few military powers with such vessels, including the United States, Russia and the United Kingdom.

But China's two aircraft carriers are no match in size, power and endurance for those of the US Navy, which keeps 10 carriers and has two under construction.

China's aircraft carrier programme is a state secret, but it's hard to imagine this country being satisfied with two of them.