The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is moving ahead with plans to build a fourth aircraft carrier, SCMP reported citing military insiders.
According to the report, the construction of the aircraft carrier, which will be the most advanced carrier of the Navy, could start as early as 2021. The report added that a plan for a fifth more advanced carrier is put on hold for now due to ‘technical challenges and high costs’.
The PLA Navy currently operates a single carrier, the Type 001 Liaoning. Liaoning is a retrofitted Soviet-era Admiral Kuznetsov-class aircraft carrier procured from Ukraine.
The country’s first homebuilt carrier, the Type 001, began sea trials last year and is expected to be commissioned into the fleet in near future. The vessel has been fitted with a ski-jump assisted Short Take-Off But Arrested Recovery (STOBAR) launch system also installed aboard the Liaoning. She will be able to carry up to 24 Shenyang J-15 fighter jets, a variant of the Russian Sukhoi Su-33 fighter, as well as around ten helicopters including Changhe Z-18, Ka-31, or Harbin Z-9.
China also reportedly began construction of a third aircraft carrier, designated Type 002, at a Shanghai shipyard around two years ago. This carrier will be equipped with a conventionally-powered catapult assisted take-off but arrested recovery (CATOBAR) aircraft launch system similar to the one used on U.S. Navy supercarriers. This system will enable the carrier to launch heavier jets such as Airborne Early Warning aircraft and also let the fighters takeoff with full payload of weapons and fuel.
The fourth vessel is also reportedly a Type 002 class aircraft carrier.
All these carriers are/will be conventionally powered, but China has been considering plans to build a more technologically advanced, nuclear-powered supercarriers similar to the ones operated by the U.S. Navy.
In a major development in the Chinese shipbuilding industry, two of the country’s largest companies in the sector were merged. The merger of the companies – the China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC) and the China Shipbuilding Industry Company (CSIC) – formed the world’s largest shipbuilding company which retained the name CSIC.
The new conglomerate has a total of 147 research institutes, business enterprises and listed companies with a combined asset value of around US$112 billion. It also employs 310,000 people, according to the official news agency Xinhua.