Aircraft carrier “Fujian”: Chinese aircraft carrier launched the third and most advanced aircraft carrier

The ship, dubbed the Fujian, is China’s first designed and built aircraft carrier with catapults, according to state-run Xinhua news agency.

Its electromagnetic catapult launch system is a major upgrade from the less advanced ski jumping system used on Liaoning and Shandong, its two predecessors. Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)Washington think tank.

The new system, similar to that used on US aircraft carriers, will allow China to launch more diverse aircraft from Fujian province faster and with more ammunition.

In addition to the launch system, the Fujian is equipped with interlocks and has a total displacement of more than 80,000 tons, Xinhua said, adding that the ship will conduct mooring trials and navigation tests after launching.

Matthew Funaiole, senior scientist at China’s CSIS project, previously told CNN that the new ship will be the Chinese military’s first modern aircraft carrier.

“This is a pretty significant step forward,” he said. “They have really made a commitment to building an air carrier program and continue to push the boundaries of what they can do.”

China names its aircraft carriers after its coastal provinces: Liaoning in the northeast and Shandong in the east. Fujian in the southeast is the closest province to Taiwan, separated by a strait that is less than 80 miles (128 kilometers) wide at its narrowest point.

The ruling Communist Party of China claims sovereignty over Taiwan’s self-governing democracy, despite never having ruled it. Chinese leader Xi Jinping has repeatedly declared the inevitability of “reunification” of China and Taiwan and refused to rule out the use of force.

Currently, China has the largest navy in the world, and aircraft carriers are the main ships of the fleet of any major power. Massive ships, in fact, are a mobile air base that allows you to quickly and for a long time transfer aircraft and weapons to the theater of operations.

China’s navy buildup comes amid rising geopolitical tensions with the United States, which, under President Joe Biden, is seeking to strengthen ties with allies and partners in the Asia-Pacific region to counter Beijing’s growing economic and military power.
Last year, Beijing lashed out at a US-UK-Australian security pact called AUKUS, an agreement under which the three countries would share military information and technology to forge a closer defense partnership in Asia. The naval exercise, which included participants in the revived informal dialogue between the United States, Japan, Australia and India, known as the Quad, further alarmed Beijing.

Maritime rivalry

China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, was an unfinished Soviet-era ship that Beijing bought from Ukraine in 1998, upgraded, and finally commissioned in 2012.

The Chinese military used the technological knowledge gained on the ship to build its first domestic aircraft carrier, the Shandong, which entered service in December 2019.

But while China’s original two aircraft carriers added to its naval power, their capabilities still lagged far behind America’s, which has a total of 11 ships in service.

In addition, both Liaoning and Shandong were based on outdated Soviet technology. These two carriers used a ski-jump launch system in which aircraft simply took off from a small ramp, while US carriers use a more advanced ejection system to launch their aircraft.

An analysis of satellite imagery shows that China's new high-tech aircraft carrier could be launched in early 2022.

Catapult-launched aircraft can take to the air faster and with more fuel and ammunition, giving them an advantage over jump-launched aircraft that rely on their own power to take off.

However, despite the advanced launch system, CSIS’s Funaiole said there are still signs that the Chinese aircraft carrier is lagging behind its American counterparts, which have more catapults, more airways and more elevators, allowing faster aircraft deployment.

All U.S. aircraft carriers are also nuclear-powered, while Fujian is believed to run on conventional steam power, which Funaiole said would limit its reach. “(Although) this may be less of a factor for China now, as many of its interests are in the near sea,” he said.

Once launched, Fujian will need to be tested and fully equipped before it is ready for commissioning and official commissioning.

The US Department of Defense originally expected the aircraft carrier to be ready for active service by 2023, but has now pushed that date back to 2024.

The Shandong aircraft carrier also took two years from launch in 2017 to its final commissioning in 2019.

Even the US has had difficulty using the same system on its latest aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford, resulting in long deployment delays.

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