Home-grown aircraft carrier tops list of major additions to China’s navy in 2017

Beijing marks 90th anniversary of the founding of its military with some hefty additions to its maritime fleet

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 31 December, 2017, 4:48pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 31 December, 2017, 10:49pm

China celebrated the 90th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army in 2017 with a massive military parade in Inner Mongolia.

President Xi Jinping has made modernising the world’s biggest armed force – which comprises about 2 million personnel – a priority. And on July 30, as he inspected 12,000 assembled troops standing amid row upon row of missile launchers, tanks and personnel carriers, while squadrons of bombers and jet fighters soared overhead, he must have felt pretty pleased with himself.

The only thing missing from the July parade was a naval presence, but that was probably more to do with topographical issues than anything else.

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Indeed, amid rising tensions on the Korean peninsula and the ever present concern of being “contained” by the United States and its allies off its east coast, China has been keener than ever this year to grow and show its maritime muscle.

If you missed them, here are the five major additions to China’s navy over the past 12 months:

Home-grown aircraft carrier

China introduced its first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, in 2012. The unfinished Admiral Kuznetsov class vessel was bought in 1998 from Ukraine – which had inherited it after the break-up of the Soviet Union – and retrofitted.

In April 2017, Beijing doubled its carrier fleet with the launch of the Type 001A, a vessel modelled on the Admiral Kuznetsov – hence their resemblance to one another – but completely designed and built in China.

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The pride of the PLA Navy began preliminary trials in November and is expected to go into full service next year.

As China seeks to challenge the United States’ dominance in the Asia-Pacific region, the Type 001A is likely to play a significant role.

Asia’s ‘most advanced’ destroyer

The launch of the Type 055 destroyer in late June marked a major step forward in the modernisation of China’s navy. Built at the Jiangnan shipyard in Shanghai, the warship was described by PLA Daily, China’s official military newspaper, as the “most advanced and largest in Asia”.

It is equipped with air ­defence, anti-missile, anti-ship and anti-submarine weapons, and is generally regarded as the world’s second-most powerful destroyer, after the United States’ DDG-1000, or Zumwalt class.

Biggest ever supply ship

Commissioned on September 1, the Hulun Lake is China’s first Type 901 replenishment vessel. The home-grown ship is designed to supply oil, ammunition, food and water to other naval vessels on the high seas.

Measuring 240 meters in length, with a displacement of 48,000 tonnes, it is equipped with a sophisticated logistics support system that can calculate exactly what supplies its client ships have consumed and what they have left.

Powerful patrol vessel

Introduced in January, the Ezhou is a guided-missile frigate designed to boost the PLA’s capabilities in the East China Sea. Known for its navigability and stealth, it is primarily used for patrols, and protecting and escorting fishing boats.

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Floating training centre

Twice the size of its predecessor, the Zhenghe, the Qijiguang training ship went into service in late February. As well as being able to accommodate 400 sailors at a time for training purposes, the vessel will conduct non-combat missions such as assisting in relief efforts after major natural disasters and making overseas port calls.

The ship was named after Qi Jiguang, a national hero from the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) who defended China against Japanese pirates.