Beijing: China has launched its third and most advanced aircraft carrier from the Shanghai Jiangnan Shipyard on Friday. The new carrier comes with combat systems that match the US Navy.
Xinhua reports that “Fujian” is China’s first domestically designed and built catapult aircraft carrier.
Its electromagnetic catapult-assisted launch system is far more advanced than its two predecessors’ ski jump-style system.
The new system is similar to those employed by US aircraft carriers. The new system allows China to launch a wider variety of aircraft faster and with greater payloads from the Fujian.
In addition to the new launch system, the Fujian carries blocking devices with a displacement load of over 80,000 tons. Xinhua reports the ship will conduct its mooring and navigation tests after the launch.
A senior fellow at the CSIS’s China Project reports the new carrier would be the Chinese military’s most modern vessel.
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China’s aircraft carriers are named after its coastal provinces. Fujian is the closest province to Taiwan. An 80 miles wide strait separates the two coasts.
China has claimed sovereignty over self-ruling Taiwan and repeatedly said that “reunification” is inevitable.
China now has the biggest naval force in the world, and aircraft carriers are the core vessels of any significant maritime fleet. The massive ships are mobile airbases. This permits the rapid and long-term deployment of aircraft to a distant combat theater.
China’s naval buildup has come as President Joe Biden seeks to strengthen ties in the Asia-Pacific region to counter Beijing’s growing military might and economic influence.
Last year, Beijing took strong exception to the security pact between the US, the UK, and Australia. An agreement where the three nations form a closer defense partnership in Asia.
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An informal dialogue between the US, Japan, Australia, and India, known as the Quad, has further unsettled Beijing.
Liaoning, China’s first aircraft carrier, was an unfinished vessel from Ukraine. Beijing bought the ship in 1998, updated and upgraded it, and commissioned the carrier in 2012.
It used the technological knowledge from the Ukrainian vessel to develop its first home-constructed carrier, the Shandong.
But although China’s first two aircraft carriers increased its naval power, their capability lagged behind the US, which has 11 such vessels in service.
In addition, the Liaoning and the Shandong operate on a ski-jump launching system, where planes take off from a slight ramp. Meanwhile, the US carriers use a technologically advanced catapult system to launch their aircraft.
Catapult-launched Aircraft are airborne quicker and with more ammunition and fuel. This gives them an advantage over planes launched by ski jump, which rely on their power when lifting off.
The Chinese carrier is behind its US counterparts, only as they have more catapults, larger flight decks, and more elevators for quicker aircraft deployment.
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All US aircraft carriers are also nuclear-powered, and while the Fujian runs on conventional steam propulsion, this is less of an issue for China as many of its interests are near its coast.
The US Department of Defense expects the carrier to be ready for active service by 2024.
The experts believe Fujian will initially struggle to operate the catapults’ electromagnetic launching technology.
The US faced similar problems on its latest carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford.