The China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC) has released a photograph of China’s second aircraft carrier equipped with an electromagnetic aircraft launch system.
The photograph put up on company’s WeChat-Chinese social media platform-account shows the aircraft carrier in the center and the Liaoning and China’s first domestically developed Type 001A aircraft carrier on either side. The photograph was revealed at a meeting at the No.702 Research Institute of the CSIC with battle groups at sea led by the three carriers as the backdrop, Global Times reported Wednesday.
The Chinese navy has been working on catapult take-off technology, which enables faster operations and a longer range for jets, for some time.
“This revelation could mean the third carrier is progressing fast,” naval expert Li Jie was quoted as saying by South China Morning Post.
It was also very likely the Type 002 carrier would use an electromagnetic catapult, as a team led by physicist Ma Weiming had made significant breakthroughs with such technology, he said.
“The progress of the new carrier and the catapult seem in synchronisation. It will take a few years for the ship to be built and the system to be installed and tested,” he said.
The system would mean less wear and tear on the aircraft and allow more planes to be launched in a shorter time than the ski-jump systems used on the Liaoning and Type 001A, a source close to the People’s Liberation Army said.
It is widely speculated that China is building its third aircraft carrier in Shanghai. China's J-15 jet fighters and a new type of fixed wing early warning aircraft were on board the mysterious ship.
CSIC Chairman Hu Wenming visited the Wuhan-based institute on Tuesday and attended a meeting where the photo was shown, during which CSIC officials and experts discussed the development of China's surface vessels and submarines, according to the CSIC post.
Judging from the photo, the new aircraft carrier will have a displacement of above 8 tons, and together with the Liaoning and Type 001A, China will soon have three aircraft carriers, a significant boost to the capabilities of the Chinese navy, Song Zongping, a military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times on Wednesday.
The Type 001A began sea tests in May, and the Liaoning was commissioned to the China's People's Liberation Army Navy in 2012.
Song added that judging from the size of the ship, the new aircraft carrier will continue to be conventionally powered rather than nuclear powered.
The Wechat post featuring the photo of the mysterious carrier was deleted by the CSIC later on Wednesday, and the CSIC has yet to confirm any details about the photo or carrier as of press time. According to the CSIC website, the test results show that the CSIC has made progress in terms of the development of a new type of vessel. However, there was no specific mention of an aircraft carrier.
China's offshore defense capability will be significantly enhanced with three aircraft carriers in active naval service, Zhang Junshe, a senior research fellow at the PLA Naval Military Studies Research Institute, told the Global Times.
The country can also better fulfill its international responsibilities in the event of a global humanitarian relief effort, such as when there is a natural disaster, or an international convoy, Zhang added.