China is currently underway with construction of its third aircraft carrier, according to military sources within the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN).
In an effort to expand their fledgling blue-water navy and project military power around the world, the Chinese are currently working on the new carrier in the coastal megacity of Shanghai.
The carrier is rumored to differ from the Soviet-style ski-jump decks of previous carriers and will allegedly use electromagnetic catapults, allowing for faster launches with less structural wear on aircraft.
China is still taking baby steps when it comes to carrier operations, with many of the PLAN’s new Naval Aviators (previous pilots were recruited from the People’s Liberation Army Air Force) still learning how to launch and land planes from ships. In fact, China’s Naval Aeronautical University only came into existence last year.
One source told the South China Morning Post, that the hull will take about two years to build and that the project is unlike anything Chinese industry has tackled before.
“Building the new carrier will be more complicated and challenging than the other two ships,” the source said.
The second source, however, was a little more optimistic, claiming that both staff and knowledge was gained when China acquired their first carrier from Ukraine.
“China has set up a strong and professional aircraft carrier team since early 2000, when it decided to retrofit the Varyag [the unfinished vessel China bought from Ukraine] to launch as the Liaoning, and it hired many Ukrainian experts … as technical advisers,” the source told SCMP.
The third carrier is expected to weigh about 80,000 metric tonnes- considerably lighter than American carriers, though heavier than the Amphibious Assault Ships used by the US Marines.
As China continues to send troops across the world on “peacekeeping” operations and squabble over both natural and artificial islands in the South China Sea, military observers around the world are no doubt anxious to see what role China’s new carrier fleet will play.
No matter the strategy, China has considerable hurdles to cross before being on par with US Naval Aviation, which dates back to the early 1900s.
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