China one step closer to nuke-powered aircraft carrier with cutting-edge icebreaker comes on stream
Published: Jun 22, 2018 06:58 PM

A J-15 fighter jet takes off from China's first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning. Photo: VCG

China has opened the bid to construct its first nuclear-powered icebreaker support ship, a move to prepare for the construction of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, military observers said.

China National Nuclear Corporation on Thursday opened public bidding for the nuclear-powered icebreaker ship, its website said.

It will be China's first nuclear-powered icebreaker support ship, and it will be able to break ice, open waterways in the polar region and provide electricity.

Bidders are required to participate in research, appraisal, building and testing of the ship, and provide technology support for the user.

This is China's first nuclear-powered ship, which is of great significance to China's development of nuclear-powered vessels, an anonymous military expert told the Global Times.

The ship's nuclear power unit is huge and can be applied to a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier once updated, so it can be seen as a preparation for the aircraft carrier, Song Zhongping, a military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times.

Nuclear power technology will also be applied to other military vessels, which allows them to travel long distances, and thus protect national security and overseas interests, Song said.

The US and former Soviet Union used their experience with nuclear-powered icebreaker ships to build a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, he noted.

China is attaching more importance to the polar regions, as the ice in the Arctic is melting, and many countries are actively paving new waterways and exploring seabed resources, the anonymous expert said.

The building of a nuclear-powered icebreaker support ship will enhance China's ability to conduct scientific explorations in these regions, according to Song.

In February, China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC) said in a statement that it plans to "speed up the process of making technological breakthroughs in nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, new-type nuclear submarines, quiet submarines, maritime unmanned intelligent confrontation systems, maritime three-dimensional offensive and defensive systems, and comprehensive naval warfare electronic information systems."

The statement has caused heated discussion as this is the first time a State-owned Chinese defense company has openly identified nuclear-powered aircraft carriers.

China commissioned its first aircraft carrier Liaoning, a refurbished Soviet ship it bought from Ukraine, in 2012. Its second carrier and the first domestically built carrier, known as Type 001A, was launched in April last year.