China’s first indigenously-built conventional aircraft carrier launched in April 2017, based on the Type 001 (Varyag/Liaoning) with some minor modifications to the island superstructure.
Type: Conventional aircraft Carrier (CV). Builder: Dalian Shipbuilding Industry Co., Ltd. Launch: 26 April 2017. In commission: 2019? Number: 1.
On 26 April, China’s first indigenously-built Type 002 aircraft carrier was launched in northeast China’s Dalian Shipyard, a major milestone in the PLA Navy’s two-decade indigenous carrier programme. The new carrier, which has yet been officially named, is largely based on its predecessor, the Soviet-built Varyag, now serving with the PLA Navy as Liaoning (CV-16). The vessel will provide the PLA Navy with its second fully operational aircraft carrier, with some increased capability.
Compared with Varyag/Liaoning, the new carrier may carry more aircraft onboard, and will be fitted with upgraded radar and sensors. More importantly, the launch of the new carrier proves that China has finally gained the capability to design and build a modern aircraft carrier independently. Construction of the Type 001A carrier began in November 2013, shortly after the commission of Liaoning. Hull assembly inside a dry dock began in March 2015.
In December 2015, a Ministry of National Defence (MND) spokesperson confirmed that existence of the indigenous aircraft carrier programme, confirming that the design and construction work was underway. The launch ceremony on 26 April 2017 was attended by General Fan Changlong, Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC) and the highest uniformed leader of the PLA.
Like Varyag/Liaoning, the Type 002 carrier also features a short take-off but arrested recovery (STOBAR) arrangement. Aircraft take-off is assisted by a bow ski-jump angled at 14°. The flight desk is fitted with arresting wires. Two starboard lifts carry the aircraft from the hangar to the flight deck. The carrier operates the Shenyang J-15 carrier-based multirole fighter, and the Changhe Z-18 AEW and ASW helicopter, and the Harbin Z-9D SAR helicopter.
The Type 002 allows an opportunity for the Chinese shipbuilder to fine tune the design of Varyag, including a larger hangar to allow more aircraft to be carried, upgraded radar and sensors, higher level of automation, improved crew living conditions, and increased capacity for fuel and other consumables. The Type 002 carrier is expected to gain full operational capability by 2020. However, the PLA Navy’s carrier ambition does not stop here. Already there have been reports suggesting that a third, lager Type 003 aircraft carrier featuring catapult-assisted take-off has begun construction at the Shanghai-based Jiangnan Shipyard.