China's first homegrown aircraft carrier heads out for sea trial

China's first domestically built aircraft carrier began sea trials on Sunday, a historic step in the country's missio...

Posted: May 13, 2018 7:04 PM
Updated: May 14, 2018 3:54 AM

China's first domestically built aircraft carrier began sea trials on Sunday, a historic step in the country's mission to build a navy capable of rivaling the world's leading maritime powers.

The new aircraft carrier, temporarily named Type 001A, sailed out at around 7 a.m. in Dalian, in the northeast province of Liaoning, according to reports in Chinese state media.

The 50,000-tonne ship will become the country's second aircraft carrier, and the first to be entirely built and designed inside of China, when it joins the navy sometime before 2020.

The carrier's maiden sea trials follows a speech given by Chinese President Xi Jinping on April 12, in which he announced plans to build a "world-class" navy under the banner of the Chinese Communist Party.

China's first carrier, the Liaoning, a retrofitted Soviet-era vessel bought from the Ukraine, was hailed as the fulfillment of a "70-year dream" of the Chinese nation when it launched to much celebration in 2012.

But experts said while the new aircraft carrier will dramatically boost China's military power in the Asia region, its technology was still outdated and lagged far behind the world's naval superpower, the United States.

"This is, in and of itself, not designed to be some frontal challenge to US power in the Asia Pacific, because it simply isn't in the class of America's aircraft carriers," Sam Roggeveen, senior fellow at Sydney's Lowy Institute, told CNN.

Bigger and better

China's second aircraft carrier will be "modernized" compared to its first, experts said, with a design that's bigger and heavier to allow it to carry more planes.

The basic design for the new aircraft carrier is clearly modeled heavily on the Liaoning, including the signature ski-jump inclination at the front from which aircraft lift off.

The ship, which is roughly 315 meters (1,033 ft) in length and 75 meters (246 ft) wide, uses conventional rather than nuclear propulsion, and is believed to displace 50,000 tonnes, according to reports in state media.

Speaking to CNN, RAND Corporation senior international defense research analyst Timothy Heath described the design as generally easier to build and to operate aircraft from.

But expert analysis of pictures and satellite images of the new China-built vessel reveals it has been altered in subtle ways, possibly allowing it to accommodate up to eight additional aircraft.

By comparison, the Liaoning is thought to currently carry around 30 warplanes, including fixed wing aircraft and helicopters.

According to Peter Layton, visiting fellow at the Griffith Asia Institute, the Liaoning was intended to act as more of a training vessel, whereas the new ship is likely to be deployed in combat missions, positioning China alongside a select number of countries with global naval capabilities, including Russia, France, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

As of this year, the United States Navy fields 11 nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, more than any other nation in the world.

The US ships feature "catapult" technology, in which a gear attached to a steam-powered piston or an electromagnetic rail gets aircraft up to flight speed as they leave the deck.

Aircraft launched by catapults can get airborne and with greater quantities of fuel and ammunition, giving them an advantage over Chinese planes, which rely on their own power when lifting off from the Liaoning's ski-jump.

Still more sea trials needed

Once an aircraft carrier passes its sea trials, that doesn't mean it's ready for combat. Although the type 001A has successfully left the ship yard, plenty of problems can, and most likely will, arise.

In late 2017, the United Kingdom's new aircraft carrier, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, embarrassingly sprung a leak during sea trials and needed repairs.

In the United States, the USS Gerald R Ford, the US Navy's newest carrier and the most expensive warship ever built at $13 billion, has a host of problems.

The Ford was commissioned into the fleet in July 2017, however, a January 2018 report from the Pentagon's Operational Test and Evaluation Office says the 100,000-ton warship is plagued with troubles in critical systems, including its catapults that launch planes, the arresting gear which catches them upon landing, and its radar.

Those deficiencies "make the ship more vulnerable to attack, or create limitations during routine operations," the report said.

Other problems are more mundane, but show just how many things have to be ironed out in a new warship: The test office report says the Ford is expected to be short of spaces for its crew to sleep.

Future of the Chinese navy

China may still be a long way from presenting a global challenge to the US Navy, but as a regional power its military program is moving fast.

With a military budget in 2018 of $175 billion dollars, up 8% on the year before, the Chinese military is pushing ahead rapidly with its modernization drive.

Between 2010 and 2017, the Chinese Navy increased its complement of ships from 210 to 320, Boston College professor of political science Robert Ross told CNN, including another 18 in 2016 alone.

By comparison, the active US fleet currently sits at approximately 272 ships, he said.

Meanwhile, the PLA has begun work on its third aircraft carrier, according to the South China Morning Post, which is rumored to employ a more advanced launch system different from the ski-jump.

"The US Navy and the capability for the US Navy will still be superior to the Chinese Navy in 10 years, but the size of the Chinese fleet will be larger and they'll have closed the gap in technology and training," Ross said.

China has made no secret of its desire to build a modern, "blue-water" navy which could operate around the world.

"If you look at China's acquisitions of facilities in the Indian Ocean and in Eastern Africa, they're quickly developing the capability to maintain a naval presence in distant waters," Ross said.

Still, the main focus of the PLA Navy in the near future is expected to be dominating the waters around the Chinese mainland, including the South China Sea.

China is fortifying islands in the region with facilities that could host military aircraft, creating what some experts have called "unsinkable aircraft carriers."

Last week, US intelligence assessed that there is a high probability the Chinese military had deployed anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles to three artificial islands there during recent military drills.

Compared to the rest of the Asia region, Ross said, only Japan can currently equal the Chinese navy and even then they probably only had about five years before they too would be surpassed.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 895229

Reported Deaths: 9462
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1749772017
Ramsey722701040
Dakota66032572
Anoka62513568
Washington39357355
Stearns32821275
St. Louis28761399
Wright25354211
Scott25329181
Olmsted21750127
Sherburne18478126
Carver1629166
Clay11923103
Blue Earth1126366
Rice11234138
Crow Wing11003122
Chisago974676
Kandiyohi9660106
Otter Tail9611126
Benton8815124
Beltrami801794
Goodhue786596
Douglas7689100
Itasca752796
Mower721349
Winona702756
McLeod694483
Isanti681383
Steele669431
Morrison663479
Becker620873
Polk591684
Freeborn550846
Carlton529474
Nobles521654
Lyon518761
Mille Lacs516573
Nicollet510960
Pine500641
Cass491252
Todd483642
Brown465057
Le Sueur445933
Meeker422357
Martin378143
Wabasha366010
Waseca365132
Dodge351511
Hubbard349848
Roseau307931
Fillmore299115
Wadena298239
Redwood277845
Houston266817
Renville264151
Faribault253032
Pennington247529
Sibley246917
Kanabec241536
Cottonwood225032
Chippewa216342
Aitkin215850
Pope203210
Watonwan194920
Yellow Medicine185423
Rock174728
Swift169322
Koochiching168123
Stevens164511
Jackson159216
Clearwater155720
Marshall151122
Murray150911
Pipestone148329
Lake129824
Lac qui Parle120025
Wilkin119416
Mahnomen104714
Norman10389
Grant9719
Big Stone9365
Lincoln8705
Kittson71523
Red Lake70710
Traverse5996
Unassigned572124
Lake of the Woods5235
Cook3020

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 516453

Reported Deaths: 7289
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk80319799
Linn32142424
Scott26637292
Black Hawk21974378
Woodbury20490258
Johnson19778105
Dubuque18515241
Pottawattamie15890213
Dallas15320113
Story1380258
Warren8450104
Cerro Gordo7964123
Clinton7725114
Webster7326122
Des Moines7098105
Marshall669093
Muscatine6645117
Wapello6441144
Jasper619591
Sioux610177
Lee5908105
Marion557897
Buena Vista502149
Plymouth488388
Henry418655
Benton404859
Jones404862
Bremer395372
Washington391463
Boone389739
Carroll367755
Mahaska365365
Crawford353747
Dickinson314655
Jackson307747
Buchanan305741
Clay295536
Delaware294654
Kossuth289077
Fayette286353
Hardin284353
Tama279777
Page272533
Wright266149
Cedar265527
Hamilton259857
Winneshiek258143
Floyd255449
Clayton244459
Poweshiek237243
Madison234525
Harrison234379
Cass233466
Butler232744
Iowa229634
Jefferson223043
Mills220930
Winnebago215938
Hancock214639
Cherokee211347
Lyon206142
Appanoose205357
Allamakee203955
Calhoun196919
Shelby196442
Union191141
Humboldt185130
Grundy183637
Franklin183029
Mitchell182043
Chickasaw178922
Emmet178246
Louisa176953
Sac171026
Guthrie168137
Montgomery161745
Clarke160829
Keokuk150839
Palo Alto150532
Howard146824
Monroe142739
Ida130141
Greene127517
Davis124625
Lucas124426
Monona122939
Worth12139
Pocahontas120724
Adair114337
Osceola104818
Decatur101913
Taylor98514
Fremont95913
Van Buren93222
Wayne84525
Ringgold76729
Audubon74917
Adams5748
Unassigned480
Rochester
Partly Cloudy
36° wxIcon
Hi: 39° Lo: 27°
Feels Like: 29°
Mason City
Clear
51° wxIcon
Hi: 50° Lo: 27°
Feels Like: 51°
Albert Lea
Cloudy
45° wxIcon
Hi: 45° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 38°
Austin
Partly Cloudy
46° wxIcon
Hi: 45° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 39°
Charles City
Partly Cloudy
52° wxIcon
Hi: 52° Lo: 28°
Feels Like: 52°
Mild heading into the weekend
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Small Business Saturday Preview

Image

Here comes Santa Claus

Image

Every brunette

Image

Chatfield brings home a trophy and KM comes up a bit short

Image

Full Friday Forecast 11/26/2021

Image

Shopping for a Christmas tree

Image

Crowds head to Apache Mall for Black Friday

Image

Sean's Weather 11/26

Image

Black Friday: supporting local this holiday season

Image

"Here comes Santa Claus," event in Rochester tonight

Community Events