Chinese aircraft carrier programme

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Class overview
Builders:Changxingdao Shipyard, Shanghai
Operators: People's Liberation Army Navy
In service:2015–2020 (projected)[1][2][3]
Building:2[4]
Planned:2–5[2][5]
General characteristics
Type:aircraft carrier
Displacement:est. 60,000+ tons[2] (conventional)
Length:300+ meters
Aircraft carried:Shenyang J-15/Chinese Naval Flanker?[6]
 
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Class overview
Builders:Changxingdao Shipyard, Shanghai
Operators: People's Liberation Army Navy
In service:2015–2020 (projected)[1][2][3]
Building:2[4]
Planned:2–5[2][5]
General characteristics
Type:aircraft carrier
Displacement:est. 60,000+ tons[2] (conventional)
Length:300+ meters
Aircraft carried:Shenyang J-15/Chinese Naval Flanker?[6]

Since the 1970s, the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has expressed interest in operating an aircraft carrier as part of its blue water aspirations, and press reports have frequently quoted senior Chinese military officials as expressing an intention to build aircraft carriers.[3] In 2011, People's Liberation Army Chief of the General Staff Chen Bingde confirmed that China was constructing at least one aircraft carrier.[7] On September 25, 2012, China's first aircraft carrier, Liaoning, was commissioned.

Since 1985, China has acquired four retired aircraft carriers for study, the Australian HMAS Melbourne and the ex-Soviet carriers Minsk, Kiev and Varyag. Reports state that two 50,000–60,000 ton Type 089 aircraft carriers based on the Varyag, are due to be finished by 2015.[2] Sukhoi Su-33s (navalized Flankers) are the aircraft most likely to be flown from these carriers,[8] but China is also developing its own multirole fighter, the Shenyang J-15.[9]

Acquisition of retired aircraft carriers[edit]

In 1988, Order 106 finished construction and launched on November 25. In July 1990, Order 106 was named Varyag, to commemorate the sinking in the Russo-Japanese war in 1904-1905 Varyag cruiser.

In July 1999, the tugboat hired by a Macau company to tow the Varyag began its long voyage. Before set sail, in the Varyag beside the name of the new English word "Kingstown" (Kingston, the capital of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines). When the ship reached Turkey in the northern Black Sea, Turkey's government to be hindered, forced command Varyag back to the Black Sea. Then in August, Varyag attempted passage through the strait and again was blocked by the Turkish government. Varyag, stuck in the Black Sea, after drifting for a long time, returned to the original port.

Chinese shipyards have gained some exposure to carrier design with the acquisition of retired hulls such as the Australian HMAS Melbourne acquired in 1985. The carrier was not dismantled for many years and according to some reports she was not completely broken up until 2002.[10]

Through various ventures, China has also purchased the ex-Soviet carriers Minsk[11] and Kiev. These carriers have become floating amusement parks for tourists.

There had been other plans to purchase foreign second-hand carriers in the past. For example a possible deal between China and France for the sale of the Clemenceau fell through in 1997.[12]

Liaoning[edit]

Liaoning before refurbishment

The 67,500 ton ex-Soviet aircraft carrier Varyag (Admiral Kuznetsov class), which was only 70% completed and floating in Ukraine, was purchased through a private Macau tourist venture in 1998. Following her troublesome tow to Dalian shipyard, the carrier has undergone a long refit. Varyag had been stripped of any military equipment as well as her propulsion systems prior to being put up for sale. In 2007 there were news reports that she was being fitted out to enter service.[2][13]

On 10 August 2011, it was announced that the refurbishment of Varyag was complete, and that it was undergoing sea trials.[14][15]

On December 14, 2011, DigitalGlobe, an American Satellite imaging company, announced that while scouring through pictures taken December 8, they had discovered the retrofitted Varyag undergoing, DigitalGlobe further stated that their images captured the ship in the Yellow Sea where it operated for 5 days. [16]

In September 2012, it was announced that this carrier would be named Liaoning, after Liaoning Province of China. On 23 September 2012, Liaoning was handed over to the People's Liberation Army Navy, but is not yet in active service.[17]

In November 2012, the first landing was successfully conducted on Liaoning with Shenyang J-15.[18]

ex-Kiev[edit]

Several days after ex-Varyag went on its first-sea-trial in August 2011, ex-Kiev welcomed guests in its new role as a luxury hotel with a £9.6 million ($15.6 million) refit. The owners believe that China's naval ambitions as well as a general curiosity about aircraft carriers will result in public interest.[19]

Acquisition of designs[edit]

In addition to the acquisition of retired aircraft carriers of foreign navies, the PLAN has been actively purchasing foreign aircraft carrier designs as well. One such example was its effort to purchase the blueprints for proposed conventional take off/landing ships from Empresa Nacional Bazan of Spain; the 23,000 ton SAC-200 and the 25,000 ton SAC-220 designs. Negotiations started between 1995 – 1996 but it did not result in any purchase. However, the Spanish firm was paid several million US dollars in consulting fees, indicating the probable transfer of some design concepts.[12]

After the Spanish firm had submitted its findings, Russian warship designer Nevskoye Design Bureau completed an aircraft carrier design for China in the late 1990s to meet the Chinese requirement but neither Russia nor China disclosed the price. Neither did the two countries reveal any information on whether China was satisfied with the design or not. In any case, no aircraft carriers based on the design were built, as limited Chinese industrial capabilities in the late-1990s made it impractical for China to start any construction of aircraft carriers.

A complete set of blueprints of a foreign aircraft carrier design was obtained by China when it purchased the decommissioned Soviet aircraft carrier Kiev. Russia insisted on China buying the blueprints as well for a higher price, but neither country has revealed the exact dollar value. However, based on the official information released by the Chinese government on aircraft carriers, all of which dictates conventional design, the V/STOL design does not appear to fit the Chinese requirement.

The complete set of blueprints of a foreign aircraft carrier design obtained by China when it purchased the incomplete Soviet aircraft carrier Varyag is the most recent purchase. Ukraine urged China to increase the original $18 million bid to include additional purchase of the complete set of blueprints of the design, and after negotiations, China agreed to pay another $2 million to purchase the complete set of blueprints. According to the memoir of Chinese embassy staff members who participated in the process, the blueprints reached China before the ship. This conventional design offers more capability.

Early plans[edit]

The first official plan of PLAN aircraft carrier dated back on March 31, 1987 when the Commission of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense approved the plan on the aircraft carrier and the next generation nuclear submarine for PLAN submitted by the then commander-in-chief of PLAN, Liu Huaqing. The original plan was to be progressed in stages, with basic research to be completed by the end of the 7th 5-year plan, and development of the platform and aircraft to be completed by the end of the 8th 5-year plan. By 2000, construction was to begin when ordered.

To prepare the commanders needed for the future aircraft carriers, the Central Military Commission approved the program of training jet fighter pilots to be future captains in May 1987, and the Guangzhou Naval Academy (广州舰艇学院) was selected as the site.[12]

However, Liu Huaqing’s plan proved to be too ambitious as the domestic Chinese industry at the time could not meet the goal demanded by the plan. As a result, the plan was drastically scaled back to basic research level and the date for an aircraft carrier entering PLAN service was postponed and eventually put on hold. In the meantime, pilot candidates for warship captain training was also altered, with candidates switched to ship-borne helicopter pilots, because it was considered that naval helicopter pilots with much more ship-borne aviation experience would be better prepared than the land-based jet fighter pilots who lack ship-borne aviation experience.

Current status[edit]

In mid-2007, Chinese domestic sources revealed that China had purchased a total of four sets of aircraft carrier landing systems from Russia[20] and this was confirmed by Russian manufacturers. However, experts disagreed on the usage of these systems: while some have claimed that it is a clear evidence of the construction of an aircraft carrier, others claim these systems are used to train pilots for a future ship. In August, 2008, Mr. Huang Qiang (黄强), the speaker of the Commission of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense announced to the public at a news conference that China had mastered all of the technologies for an aircraft carrier, and would build aircraft carriers in the future when time was deemed right. The strongest proof of a Chinese aircraft carrier also appeared in 2008, from an official Chinese governmental source when the training program of jet fighter pilots for warship captains were resumed: PLA Daily (解放军报) published the news of Dalian Naval Academy (大连舰艇学院) accepting a total of 50 jet fighter pilots for warship captain training in 2008, and in comparison to the first class that was held more than one and half decades previously at Guangzhou Naval Academy (广州舰艇学院), the training has been lengthened to four years. Resumption of this plan is viewed by foreign observers and military analysts as another step in preparation for an aircraft carrier entering service.

There are also some media reports of a possibility of China building nuclear-powered aircraft carriers,[21][22] however the U.S. Department of Defense 2011 Chinese military assessment makes no mention of possible nuclear-powered aircraft carrier development.[23] According to the Nippon News Network (NNN), research and development on the planned carriers is being carried out at a military research facility in Wuhan. NNN states that the actual carriers will be constructed at Jiangnan Shipyard in Shanghai.[24] Kanwa Intelligence Review reports that the second carrier to be constructed will likely be assigned to Qingdao.[25]

It was also reported in 2009 that the Brazilian Navy will train PLA naval officers in carrier operations in exchange for assistance on nuclear submarine technology and additional funding.[26][unreliable source?]

According to a February 2011 report in the The Daily Telegraph, the Chinese military has constructed a concrete aircraft carrier flight deck to use for training carrier pilots and carrier operations personnel. The deck was constructed on top of a government building near Wuhan (Wuhan Technical College of Communication campus next to Huangjiahu).[27]

On 7 June 2011, People's Liberation Army Chief of the General Staff Chen Bingde confirmed that China was constructing its own aircraft carrier. He stated he would provide no further details until it was complete.[7]

On July 30, 2011, a senior researcher of the Academy of Military Sciences said China needed at least three aircraft carriers. "If we consider our neighbours, India will have three aircraft carriers by 2014 and Japan will have three carriers by 2014, so I think the number (for China) should not be less than three so we can defend our rights and our maritime interests effectively." General Luo Yuan.[28] In July 2011, a Chinese official announced that two aircraft carriers were being built at the Jiangnan Shipyard in Shanghai.[29] On 21 May 2012, Taiwan's intelligence chief Tsai Teh-sheng told the Legislative Yuan that the PLA Navy plans to build two carriers, scheduled to start construction in 2013 and 2015 and launch in 2020 and 2022 respectively.[30] On 24 April 2013 Chinese Rear Admiral Song Xue confirmed that China will build more carriers and these will be larger and will carry more fighter-planes than the Liaoning.[31]

China is also developing a carrier-based fighter aircraft, the Shenyang J-15. On 25 November 2012, it was announced that at least two Shenyang J-15's had successfully landed on Liaoning.[18][32] The pilot who achieved the first landing was allegedly Dai Mingmeng (戴明盟).[33]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_international/199284.html
  2. ^ a b c d e Minemura, Kenji (2008-12-31), China to start construction of 1st aircraft carriers next year, Asahi Shimbun, archived from the original on 26 May 2009 
  3. ^ a b "Japan defense minister's China visit a sign of warming relations". Chinadaily.com.cn. 2009-03-23. Retrieved 2011-04-30. 
  4. ^ Ben Blanchard and Benjamin Lim (2011-07-27). "China boosts naval power with carrier program: sources". Reuters. Retrieved 2012-07-10. 
  5. ^ "China Has Plans For Five Carriers". Aviation Week. 2011-01-05. Retrieved 2011-04-30. 
  6. ^ "China’s Aircraft Carriers". Strategycenter.net. 2009-03-10. Retrieved 2011-04-30. 
  7. ^ a b Global Times, "PLA Chief Confirms Vessel Is 'Under Construction'", 8 June 2011.
  8. ^ 26-Mar-2009 08:46 UTC (2009-03-26). "China to Buy Su-33 Carrier-Based Fighters from Russia?". Defenseindustrydaily.com. Retrieved 2011-04-30. 
  9. ^ Fulghum, David A. "New Chinese Ship-Based Fighter Progresses". Article. Aviation Week. Retrieved 27 April 2011. 
  10. ^ Hobbs, Commander David (October 2007). "HMAS Melbourne (II) – 25 Years On". The Navy 69 (4): 5–9. ISSN 1322-6231. 
  11. ^ "Former Soviet aircraft carrier sold in China for $16mln". 
  12. ^ a b c "China's Aircraft Carrier Ambitions: Seeking Truth from Rumors." Storey, I.; Ji, Y. Naval War College Review. Winter 2004, Vol. 57, No. 1.
  13. ^ Jon Rosamond, 'China completes joint exercise with UK aircraft carrier,' Jane's Navy International, November 2007, p.6
  14. ^ Hille, Kathrin (2011-08-10). "China’s first aircraft carrier takes to the sea". The Financial Times. 
  15. ^ "China's first aircraft carrier begins sea trials". CBC News. 2011-08-10. 
  16. ^ "US satellite snaps China's first aircraft carrier at sea". The Guardian (London). 15 December 2011. 
  17. ^ "China navy takes delivery of first aircraft carrier". 23 September 2012. Retrieved 23 September 2012. 
  18. ^ a b "我航空母舰顺利进行歼—15飞机起降飞行训练". 新华网 (北京). 25 November 2012. 
  19. ^ "China launches second aircraft carrier after a £9.6m refit... as a luxury hotel". Daily Mail (London). August 11, 2011. 
  20. ^ Bodeen, Christopher (March 6, 2009), Speculation Grows on China Aircraft Carrier Plans, Associated Press via abcnews, archived from the original on 7 May 2009 
  21. ^ Ryall, Julian (2009-02-20). "Hillary Clinton's visit to China sparks alarm in Japan". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 2010-05-03. 
  22. ^ http://aircraft.zurf.info/article/return-zheng-he
  23. ^ Office of the Secretary of Defense (6 May 2011). "Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China, 2011". Annual Report to Congress: 46. http://www.defense.gov/pubs/pdfs/2011_cmpr_final.pdf. Retrieved 16 February 2012.
  24. ^ 中国の国産空母の建造、最前線を報告 [China's indigenous aircraft carrier construction, the frontline report] (in Japanese), January 10, 2010  Google translation
  25. ^ Kanwa Intelligence Review, "Long-Range SAMS Deployed In Qingdao", April 10, 2010.
  26. ^ Hsiao, Russell (12 June 2009). "PLAN Officers to Train on Brazilian Aircraft Carrier". China Brief Volume: 9 Issue: 12. The Jamestown Foundation. Retrieved 26 April 2010. 
  27. ^ Harding, Thomas (7 February 2011), Concrete Evidence Of China's Naval Ambitions, London: The Daily Telegraph 
  28. ^ http://www.spacewar.com/reports/China_needs_at_least_three_aircraft_carriers_general_999.html
  29. ^ Gertz, Bill, "China begins to build its own aircraft carrier", Washington Times, 2 August 2011, p. 1.
  30. ^ Channel NewsAsia, "Taiwan Says China To Build Two Aircraft Carriers", 22 May 2012, from wire service
  31. ^ http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/04/24/us-china-navy-carrier-idUSBRE93N00Q20130424
  32. ^ "China lands first fighter jet on aircraft carrier". 3 News NZ. November 26, 2012. 
  33. ^ "戴明盟:着舰成功首飞第一人". 钱江晚报 (杭州). 24 November 2012. 

External links[edit]