The Chinese military has confirmed for the first time this week that the country is working on the construction of its second aircraft carrier.
Unlike its first carrier – the Liaoning, which was a retrofitted Soviet carrier bought from Ukraine in the late 1990s, the new carrier will be completely built in China.
“After an overall consideration of various factors, the relevant authorities started the research and development of China’s second aircraft carrier that is currently under independent design and construction,” commented defence ministry spokesman, Yang Yujun during a news briefing.
“This aircraft carrier is being developed according to entirely domestic designs.”
The new carrier will be built in the Chinese port city of Dalian, and in many ways will resemble the design of the Liaoning.
The as-yet unnamed carrier will reportedly be a similar displacement to the Liaoning of around 50,000 tonnes and will feature the same style of ski-jump launch system.
As well, the carrier will be built to accommodate China’s new J-15 ‘Flying Shark’ fighter aircraft which is currently entering large-scale production.
While this ship will be the first of its class designed and built within China, it still features less advanced technologies than those of the current generation of carriers under construction by the US Navy (USN).
Primarily, the new carrier lacks nuclear propulsion, meaning it will have to return to port more often to refuel, and will generate less electrical power.
Secondly, it will lack the electromagnetic aircraft catapult technology planned for the new USN Ford Class carriers which enabling more versatile operations.
Chinese military expansion
This latest announcement comes at a time when China is rapidly building up its military capabilities, especially its naval and air assets.
The country is investing in a number of new ships including 12 advanced Type 052D guided missile destroyers and 22 multi-role 054A frigates to be constructed by next year.
Last year, the country also began construction of a number of artificial islands to be used as air bases within the South China Sea, in an attempt to enforce its controversial claim to the area known as the ‘9 Dash Line’.