China plans to operate six aircraft carriers, of which two will be nuclear-powered ones that would be launched around 2025, according to Chinese military experts.
The People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy will have five aircraft carriers in the near future, Global Times reported quoting Song Zhongping, a military expert and TV commentator as saying Thursday.
Wang Yunfei, another naval expert and retired PLA Navy officer, said that China needs six aircraft carriers to ensure enough carriers are on active duty while the others are undergoing maintenance.
China will develop two nuclear-powered carriers, Wang said.
With the first carrier, the CNS Liaoning being used for testing, the second carrier designated as ‘Type 001A’ is undergoing sea-trails, the third has entered the construction phase in Shanghai, according to the Chinese Navy’s plan to fast-track aircraft carrier development.
Teaser images of the third carrier were released by the China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC) in the past without giving any description. In one image at the CSIC board meeting earlier this year, the background screen showed three carriers of what appears to be an artists’ illustration.
The proposed third aircraft carrier is said to carry the ‘Type 002’ designation and is expected to have a catapult take-off and arrester-cable landing assist system unlike the ski-jump take off system of the 001A.
The teaser image posted on Xinhua News’ WeChat account in November this year has a carrier in the fore-ground with a flat deck indicating the presence of a catapult launch system. Such a system is power hungry and will most probably need nuclear-powered propulsion to supply the required power.
China is in a hurry to acquire the aircraft carriers as it rapidly expanded the navy coupled with the acquisition of naval bases aboard to back up its growing influence abroad, especially in the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea (SCS).