China’s new aircraft carrier to pack more jet power than the Liaoning

Liu Zhen

China’s first domestically built aircraft carrier will take 36 fighter planes to sea when it is commissioned, 12 more than its sister ship the Liaoning, according to state media.

The new Type 001A was an upgraded version of the Liaoning, a former Soviet Kuznetsov-class carrier, with a much smaller control tower “island” but greater displacement, Hu Wenming, chief of the ship’s construction programme, said in an interview with CCTV on Tuesday.

“The two carriers look similar, but from a design and research and development perspective they are essentially different,” Hu, president of China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC), was quoted as saying.

While the Type 001A retained the Liaoning’s ski-jump flight deck, at 315 metres (1,033ft) it is 10 metres longer. The new ship has a full displacement of 70,000 tonnes, compared with the Liaoning’s 58,600 tonnes.

Unlike the Liaoning, the new carrier has a Type 346 “Star of the Sea” digital radar system and hangar space for 12 more J-15 fighters than its sister ship.

The Liaoning carries 14 helicopters and has a crew of about 2,000. Both ships are powered by four-shaft conventional steam turbines, although the top speed of the Type 001A is 31 knots, slower than the Liaoning’s 32.

The Type 001A went through its seventh trial in the Yellow Sea earlier this month. In earlier trials, everything from basic ship propulsion to aircraft operations was assessed.

Details of new Chinese aircraft carrier revealed in sea trial footage aired on state TV

“China has accumulated more experience with the Liaoning and that has helped in the construction and operation of the Type 001A,” said Song Zhongping, a military commentator based in Hong Kong.

The Liaoning, formerly the Varyag, was sold to China by Ukraine in 1998 as the unfinished second ship of its class. State-owned CSIC retrofitted the vessel from 2005 at its Dalian shipyard and delivered it to People’s Liberation Army Navy in 2012.

The ship was named after the province where the shipyard is located.

The Type 001A has gone through its seventh sea trial and the builders say it can carry 36 fighters, 12 more than sister ship the Liaoning. Photo: Ifeng

The Liaoning’s main role is to train navy pilots and crews for carrier operations and, as China’s sole commissioned aircraft carrier, it is also said to be “combat ready”.

CISC began work on the Type 001A in 2013 and launched it in April 2017. Its maiden voyage came in May 2018, and it is expected to be commissioned later this year.

In April, CCTV aired a 23-second video shot during the Type 001A’s fifth sea trial in February and March, which revealed the bridge interior, control panels, radar system and mast structure, and a weapons system designed to counter incoming fire.

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