China eagerly awaits new carrier launch

By Yang Sheng Source:Global Times Published: 2017/4/25 23:58:40

China needs 2 carrier strike groups in Pacific, 2 in Indian Ocean: expert

Red flags decorate China's first domestically built aircraft carrier, the Type 001A, as it waits to be launched in Dalian, Northeast China's Liaoning Province on Monday. Photo: Cui Meng/GT

Anticipation for the launch of China's first domestically built aircraft carrier, the Type 001A, is growing, with many military enthusiasts flocking to Dalian, Liaoning Province, where the vessel is being built, in hopes of witnessing the historic moment.

On Tuesday, the deck of the aircraft carrier was decorated with hundreds of red flags, and the dry dock where the carrier has been under construction is flooded with water, suggesting that the giant vessel is ready for its big day.

The Type 001A looks like the Liaoning, a Type 001, the first Chinese aircraft carrier to be commissioned into the People's Liberation Army navy in 2012. It has a ski jump-style launch ramp on its flight deck where aircraft are launched and recovered. On the starboard side of the deck is the island, where air-traffic control and the bridge are located. The radar system on the island is higher than on the Liaoning, which means its radar detection range might be wider.

The Liaoning was purchased from Ukraine and refitted in Dalian at the same shipyard. Construction of the Type 001A, using Chinese technology, began in 2013.

According to data from China's defense ministry, the Type 001A is conventionally powered, with a full-load displacement of 50,000 tons. It "will be the base for J-15 fighters and other types of aircraft," said Yang Yujun, a spokesperson for China's defense ministry.

Sunday was the 68th anniversary of the founding of the People's Liberation Army navy. Some military enthusiasts thought the new aircraft carrier would be launched that day, and came to Dalian to witness the ceremony, but it did not take place.

Simultaneously, China's third aircraft carrier, the Type 002, is being built in Shanghai. Li Jie, a Beijing-based naval expert said this one is far more advanced than the other two, and will look like a US aircraft carrier rather than a Russian one, because the ski ramp on the fight deck will disappear since it will use catapult technology.

Most advanced aircraft carriers use the Electromagnetic Catapult System, or Electromagnetic launcher (EML), to launch carrier-based aircraft, but China is still testing steam catapults, Li said. "The main difference is that EMLs are more flexible and the system's speed can be controlled, so it can launch aircraft of different sizes."

No threat

With the fast development of China's aircraft carriers, media in India published reports indicating that some Indian strategists are worried, as they think China's aircraft carriers will pose a serious threat to India once they enter the Indian Ocean.

The Economic Times on April 21 said that China's aircraft carriers will become a "new threat in the Indian Ocean," and the Indian Express said on April 6 that "China's naval shadow on the Indian Ocean region challenges Delhi."

Retired major general G D Bakshi, an Indian war veteran and strategic analyst, wrote in the Indian Express that "This is hardly the time to bring our defense budget down to 1.63 per cent of our GDP," as he discussed the possible future impact of Chinese aircraft carriers sailing in the Indian Ocean.

"In order to protect China's territories and overseas interests, China needs two carrier strike groups in the West Pacific and two in the Indian Ocean. So we need at least five to six aircraft carriers," said Yin Zhuo, a senior researcher at the PLA Navy Equipment Research Center.

China will also build several logistics bases overseas to provide supplies for the future aircraft carrier strike groups, said Xu Guangyu, a senior adviser to the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association. "We will cooperate with partners who welcome the Chinese navy's presence, such as Pakistan and Sri Lanka."

China has one overseas logistics base in Djibouti.

Xu said many countries have aircraft carriers and many carriers have appeared in the Indian Ocean and even launched military strikes on other countries, but they did not threaten Indian security interests.

Chinese aircraft carriers will be used to protect China's overseas interests, Xu said.

"China sees India as a friend rather than an enemy, as the two have no maritime disputes. So there is no need for Indian elites to worry and spread the China Threat Theory," he said.


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