Liaoning aircraft carrier

It’s official: China building second aircraft carrier as concern mounts over claims to South China Sea

The vessel, the country’s second after the Liaoning, will be built entirely using domestic technology and is aimed at boosting Beijing’s military clout

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 December, 2015, 4:20pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 December, 2015, 10:52pm

China is building its second aircraft carrier – its first domestically made one – the Defence Ministry confirmed yesterday as the country seeks to boost its naval capabi­lity amid rising regional tension.

Defence ministry spokesman Yang Yujun said the carrier was being designed entirely using domestic technology and would be built in the port of Dalian in Liaoning province.

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“China has a long coastline and a vast maritime area under our jurisdiction. To safeguard our maritime sovereignty, interests and rights is the armed forces’ ­sacred mission,” Yang said.

The confirmation came after months of speculation by military experts and in media reports.

Yang said the vessel’s design drew on experiences from China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, bought from Ukraine in 1998 and refitted on the mainland.

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Similar to the Liaoning, the new carrier will be conventionally powered, with a standard displacement of 50,000 tonnes, and will be able to operate the J -15 fighter jet. It will use a ski-jump take-off – a relatively outdated launch method – despite military analysts’ assessment that China was capable of building a more advanced catapult system.

Xu Guangyu, a senior researcher at China Arms Control and Disarmament Association in Beijing, said the ski-jump take-off was used as the J-15’s design and its operators’ training was all based on the Liaoning.

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“China needs the new aircraft carrier to be capable of combat as soon as possible,” he said.

The Liaoning had amassed a lot of data covering ship usage, plane operation and even marine data in waters including the South China Sea, which the new carrier could instantly use, Xu said.

But given a lack of experience and many technological challenges, China’s first home-made vessel would take a longer time to build up its full fighting capacity, he added. It would probably be ready for use only in 2020, he said.

The Pentagon, in a report last year, said Beijing could build multiple aircraft carriers over the next 15 years. But asked if China planned to build a third such vessel, Yang said only that the “relevant authorities” would take various factors into consideration.

China is facing growing military pressure from factors such as the United States’ arms sales to Taiwan as well as ship and plane patrols in the South China Sea, military analyst Ni Lexiong said.

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Aircraft carriers were necessary for China to extend its air supremacy, deploying its fighter jets wherever they were needed, he said, adding that the country required four carriers to meet its defence needs.

“China is taking a steady pace in developing aircraft carriers. It will not simultaneously build multiple vessels.”

Meanwhile, Yang also said the country was carrying out routine tests of a new long-range missile, after a US-based website said China had tested it from a railroad car, which would be difficult to locate in a conflict.

Yang also said that General Liu Yuan, a high-profile military corruption whistle-blower close to President Xi Jinping, had retired from his position as political commissar of the People’s Liberation Army’s Logistics Department, confirming the South China Morning Post’s report published on Wednesday.

Additional reporting by Reuters