China’s second aircraft carrier and its first operational combat carrier will set sail later this year “based on current progress.”
The first ocean-going aircraft carrier combat taskforce of the Peoples’ Liberation Army (PLA) Navy, led by the new aircraft carrier, will possess initial combat capability in 2018 or 2019, according to an insightful article in China Military sourced from Southern Weekly.
The carrier will be the first by a developing country with 50000 tons displacement running on conventional power and possessing a ski-jump take-off. This, the article says “reflects China's small –yet-quick-steps development guideline for its naval vessels and is conducive to forming combat capability as early as possible.”
The second aircraft carrier will be equipped with the same phased array radar as those on the 052D destroyer. Other improvements may include installing advanced satellite communication system, electronic warfare system, and command and control system.
Compared with aircraft carrier Liaoning, the second aircraft carrier will have major improvements in the layout of the flight deck, hangar and island (superstructure) which will be more rational, resulting in saving of space improved overall performance, said the article.
The island of the second aircraft carrier is re-designed from that of the Liaoning as the Soviet Union's ship-borne radar and electronic equipment is large and heavy, leading to a large island on the Varyad (now Liaoning) and taking up the valuable space on the flight deck.
When modifying the Varyad, China didn't change the original island structure for stability and project simplification. But with the second aircraft carrier, the island of the aircraft carrier is made compact to increase the space on the flight deck.
The original Varyad had 12 huge SS-N-19 heavy-duty anti-ship missiles under the bow deck. Although they were removed when the carrier was modified into the Liaoning, the space couldn't be expanded into a hangar because of the restriction of the original design.
The second aircraft carrier will have its hanger re-designed to carry more ship-borne aircraft and enhance the aviation combat capability.
When the new aircraft carrier is commissioned, the Chinese Navy’s aircraft carrier taskforce will include two to four 054A guided missile frigates for anti-submarine and anti-aircraft tasks. The task force will also include the 12,000-ton-class 055 and 052D guided missile destroyers.
China's new-generation type-095 attack nuclear submarine will play the role of "underwater guardian" in the aircraft carrier taskforce.
Besides, the first of China's latest type-901 40,000-ton-class replenishment ship has recently begun sea trial and will be officially commissioned soon. 1 to 3 ships of the same class will guarantee the logistic replenishment of the entire aircraft carrier taskforce.
As to ship-borne aircraft, the second aircraft carrier will continue to carry the current aircraft on the Liaoning, including J-15 heavy-duty ship-borne fighter jets and Z-18 anti-submarine helicopters. The J-15S two-seat multi-purpose ship-borne fighter jets, fixed wing early warning aircraft and even stealth ship-borne aircraft may also appear on the second aircraft carrier, the article said.