China launched its third and most advanced aircraft carrier on Friday as Beijing races to catch up with US military capabilities and carry out threats to retake Taiwan by force if necessary.
The ship, named Fujian, named after the coastal province across the street Taiwanis being built at the Jiangnan Shipyard in Shanghai in 2018. It will reduce the difference in the Chinese carrier compared to its more established counterparts in the United States and is expected to enter service at the end of next year or in 2024.
According to analysts and media reports, Fujian was supposed to launch on June 3. But the date was dropped due to the Covid outbreak in Shanghai and the two-month blockade.
“The resumption of work after the pandemic control measures was slower than expected and there was a shortage of workers,” he said. Chinese military a scientist who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media on the subject. “The equipment for further equipment after the launch was also not completely in place.”
Fujian is the first Chinese carrier to be fully designed and manufactured in the country. Liaoning, the first carrier, is a refurbished building purchased from Ukraine, and Shandong was built in China, but based on his design.
The PLA Navy aims to have six carriers by 2035, compared to the US Navy’s 11-ship fleet, according to PLA fellows’ writings and mentions in official Chinese media.
Shandong underwent almost a year of construction work after being launched in April 2017 and another 17 months of marine testing before being put into operation.
Fujian’s equipment and marine testing may take even longer, analysts said, but said it was more advanced. The first two carriers have ski jumps, an outdated design that can’t shoot heavier planes, and limits the amount of weapons fighters can take off. The new ship is equipped with an electromagnetic catapult, in line with the latest innovations of the US Navy.
“The [People’s Liberation Army Navy] will face challenges passing from [jumps] to the more demanding [catapult] operations of the carrier and this may delay the achievement of operational capability with the new ship “, according to the think tank of the International Institute for Strategic Studies. “He may also face similar problems with teething as the United States faces when introducing electromagnetic catapults.
China is building its ships faster than Western observers expected, but its progress has not been so rapid.
“It sends a big signal when the third medium is released, but the problem is that you have to equip and manage it,” said Maya Nowens, a PLA expert at IISS. “Liaoning is still forming a ship strike force almost 10 years after it was handed over to the PLA Navy.”
Analysts say the most difficult challenge for the PLA’s navy is the lack of qualified seafarers and a shortage of proper aircraft. “Their biggest problem is that they don’t have enough people,” said Hsu Yen-chi, a researcher at the Taipei Council’s Strategic and Military Research Brain Trust, who was trying to find enough people needed for naval aviation personnel. regiment of a carrier, which may require up to 3,000 men.
“The goal is to achieve a strategic balance with the United States in the western Pacific, plus consolidating control over South China Sea“Hsu added. “The normal setting would be 40 fighters per carrier, but if you look at their latest exercise, they only have 20. So they are very far from where they want to be.”
China continues to produce more than the J-15 fighters used on Liaoning and Shandong, and is working on a new, high-speed version of the aircraft believed to be designed to use the third carrier. “The main differences will be catapult compatibility, improved data connections and radar systems and, of course, greater payload, including missiles out of range,” said a Western military officer who monitors the PLA.
The PLA is also exploring how to skip more advanced partners and address some of the weaknesses of traditional carriers. In a video released by China’s South Navy this year, seven drones were seen on the deck of Shandong.
“The fact that they are trying to do this shows you that the leadership has concerns about the vulnerability of carriers to threats of the kind that China itself uses to prevent access and denial of a zone against the United States,” said the Western military official.
But analysts have warned not to assume that China’s capabilities are mature in these areas. Knowens said similar images were shown by China’s state-owned arms manufacturers at the 2018 Zhuhai Air Show. or even operational capability, ”she said.