China’s new home-made aircraft carrier, which can house a dozen more fighter jets than its sister ship the Liaoning, is likely to be in service by the end of this year.
The new ship’s multiple voyages in the Yellow Sea off northeastern China this year are an indication that the official christening and commission of the Type 001A carrier are drawing near.
It is likely to be in service by the end of the year if it is not ready for the big military show on October 1, the 70th anniversary of the Communist republic.
Despite being ridiculed as a lookalike of the Soviet-built Liaoning – the People’s Liberation Army’s only carrier in service – the new Type 001A can house a dozen more fighter jets than her sister ship, according to state broadcaster China Central Television.
The new ship can carry a total of 36 J-15s and has more powerful four-shaft steam turbines, a revamped hanger layout as well as a redesigned bridge with a smaller footprint on its flight deck.
Hu Wenming, president of the state-owned China Shipbuilding Industry Corp contracted by the military to build the carrier, told CCTV that the Type 001A would be inherently more advanced than the Liaoning with a host of new technologies to make up for the deficiencies of the former, in particular with improvements to its powertrain as well as the short take-off and arrested recovery system for fighters.
He added that CSIC and PLA technicians were putting the finishing touches to the vessel, ironing out any problems found during the trial voyages.
The new vessel retains the Liaoning’s ski-jump flight deck, and at 315 meters is 10 meters longer. At 70,000 tonnes, it displaces 11,400 tonnes more water than the Liaoning.
Its more spacious hangar and flight deck can house and service 12 more J-15 carrier-borne fighters and has space for 14 helicopters. Its 2,000-strong crew and pilots can also rest better in quieter, more spacious dormitories, according to Hu.
The brief CCTV interview was seen as a bid to refute rumors that the Type 001A ran into problems which were “more than teething troubles” as the latest sea trial in early August was cut short as the vessel returned to its homeport of Dalian for emergency repairs.
It sailed again a few days later and wrapped up its seventh voyage. The carrier was launched and put to sea for the first time in May 2018.
At least one more carrier, sporting a flattop design, was being built by the China State Shipbuilding Corp in Shanghai. The next ship will look more like the super- carriers in service with the US Navy, despite being powered by steam and diesel rather than by an onboard nuclear reactor.