First China-built carrier on target for April 23 launch
The fit-out will continue for some time before the 70,000-tonne pride of the navy is commissioned
China’s defence ministry has confirmed that the country’s first locally built aircraft carrier has entered its final stage of construction before the hull is launched, which media reports suggest could be as early as April 23, the founding anniversary of the navy.
“China’s first home-built aircraft carrier is now being fitted out, everything is going very smoothly,” defence ministry spokesman Wu Qian said on Thursday when asked about the carrier’s upcoming launch.
“Regarding the news [about wether the ship will be launched in time for the navy’s anniversary] I believe you won’t have to wait too long.”
Earlier this week, mainland media reported that the carrier, temporarily named the Type 001A, would be launched on April 23, the 68th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army Navy.
Citing sources close to the navy, the South China Morning Post earlier this week reported that President Xi Jinping might attend the launch.
The new carrier will be similar to the Liaoning, China’s first carrier which was refurbished from the half-completed carrier Varyag that Beijing bought from Ukraine in 1998. It will also be equipped with a ski-jump take-off ramp.
However, Beijing-based naval expert Li Jie said the layout, equipment and overall operational concept of the Type 001A would be more advanced and functional than the Liaoning.
According to Li, certain weapons were excluded from the Type 001A platform to allow the ship to park more J-15 fighter jets. The hangar was also being expanded to allow the new carrier to carry between six and eight more J-15s than the Liaoning.
“The ongoing fit-out is preliminary to the carrier’s launch. Other follow-up work will be carried out after the giant ship enters the water,” Li said.
“It’s a complicated and huge project to move such a huge hull from land to sea.
“Many key weapons and pipelines will be installed after the launch, to prevent the equipment from being damaged while the ship is being moved.”
Compared with the Liaoning, the Type 001A could carry more helicopters and fixed-wing early-warning aircraft, Li said. The country’s most advanced S-band radars and four batteries of HQ-10 short-range air defence missiles with 24 tubes each would also deployed on the new ship, Li said.
The HQ-10 missile system is mounted on the navy’s most advanced Type 052D destroyers and Type 056 frigates, while the S-band radar system is capable of covering a 360-degree search field to scout dozens of targets in the air and at sea.