China’s third aircraft carrier approaches completion, while their fourth carrier is being built.
Image Credit: Chinapower.CSIS.org
China is expected to finish their third aircraft carrier this year if all goes according to plan. China already has two aircraft carriers named Type 001 Liaoning and Type 001A Shandong. The Liaoning aircraft carrier was based on an unfinished Ukrainian aircraft carrier hull, while the Shandong is an improved version of Liaoning aircraft carrier.
The Chinese navy will soon finish its third aircraft carrier and is currently building a fourth. Their third aircraft carrier will feature a new design called the Type 002. Of course, no names have been assigned yet to the third and fourth aircraft carriers, or else unknown as this point in time. Both Type 002 aircraft carriers will be much larger than Liaoning and Shandong aircraft carriers, and will use electromagnetic catapults to assist planes in take-off, rather than ramps, like in the first two aircraft carriers. Electromagnetic catapults will give the Chinese navy new abilities, as these catapults allow larger and heavier aircraft to be launched with less fuel, and therefore they can carry more weapons and fly for a longer duration before needing to return to the carrier. Most of the US navy aircraft carriers utilize steam-driven catapults, which are far less powerful than electromagnetic catapults, but the latest US Ford-class aircraft carriers use electromagnetic catapult system.
The acceleration of China’s naval shipbuilding plans is worrying considering the buildup in military bases in the South China Sea. China has been building lands out of reefs and militarizing them to aid them in their ‘right’ for a territorial grab of most of the Sea. Around 1.3 million square miles of South China sea is claimed by China. Several years ago, satellite images showed China carrying out land reclamation on reefs to bolster their claim on the territory.
The region is also known to have rich deposits of oil and gas. China’s repeated threats to all countries and aggression towards ships ‘trespassing their territory’ has infuriated countries that have a claim in the South China sea. These are Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. United States and Europe has repeatedly expressed their support for the South China Sea countries which are constantly being ‘bullied’ by China. Recently, it was also revealed that China expanded an important hidden naval base which is strategically located to rapidly send ships to Paracel and Spratly islands. From these islands, China can monitor foreign countries’ navy ships that pass through the South China Sea.
Once the first of the Type 002 aircraft carriers is finished, it will need to undergo sea trials and the crew will have to train using the new capabilities of the ship. It is believed that it will enter service in 2025.
China aims to complete military modernization by 2035 and want to transform the Chinese army into a ‘world-class’ military by the end of 2049. China aims to have six operational aircraft carriers by 2035.