China's next 80.000-ton aircraft carrier would enter service in 2025

As China's second aircraft carrier, and the first ship of its type entirely designed and manufactured in China, entered service this week under the christening name "Shandong", Professor Zhu Yingfu, chief designer of the Liaoning, first carrier -aircraft of the Chinese Navy, provides extensive information on the future aircraft carrier currently under construction, which should enter service in 2025.

In an interview given to the Chinese magazine “Ordnance Industry Science Technology” specializing in the Defense industry, Professor Zhu Yingfu believes that the new aircraft carrier currently under construction will be launched in 2022, and that it will be admitted to service in 2025. He further specifies that the new building should reach 80.000 tonnes, and will be capable of handling up to 70 aircraft. In addition, as expected, it will be equipped with electromagnetic catapults to launch fixed-wing aircraft, adding that, according to him, China already had technological mastery superior to that of the United States. United in this area.

Chinese aircraft carrier model J20 Defense News | Military aircraft construction | Military naval construction
Model of the future Chinese nuclear aircraft carrier, identified type 004. Note the presence of combat drones, heavy fighter planes and advanced aerial surveillance devices

The propulsion will, according to him, be conventional although significantly more powerful than that fitted to the first two Chinese aircraft carriers (this can be explained if only by the difference in tonnage). The professor believes that the technology allowing the construction of nuclear propulsion for an aircraft carrier will only be fully mastered in 2025 or 2030. This tends to confirm that the next Chinese Type 003 ship, and its sister ship including construction should logically begin in 2022 with the launch of the first, will indeed be the representatives of a transition class, between the first two Type 001/A Liaoning and Shandong, in STOBAR configuration (equipped with springboard and stopping strands) and with conventional propulsion, and the future Type 004, equipped with electromagnetic catapults and nuclear propulsion, and whose tonnage will, most certainly, be close to those of the American Nimitz or Ford class. These electromagnetic catapults will not only make it possible to launch fighters in heavy configuration, therefore carrying more fuel and weapons than in the STOBAR version, but they will also be able to implement early warning aircraft like the KJ-600, and on-board combat drones, again fully armed, like the Sharp Sword.

A sign that the debate remains open in the country, Zhu Yingfu indicates that, according to him, the aircraft manufacturer Shenyang which designed the J-15 currently in service on the Liaoning and Shandong aircraft carriers, is perfectly capable of designing a 5th generation aircraft to equip the new Chinese CATOBAR aircraft carriers (equipped with catapults and arresting arms). We can therefore ask ourselves whether the announcement of the development of a new 5th generation fighter, which is believed to be intended to replace the J-11s of the Chinese Air Force, will not serve as the basis for a family of multi-role, carrier-based fighters, like the J-15 and J-16 currently in service. It is also possible to imagine that the manufacturer would continue to develop its FC-31 in order to provide the Chinese naval aviation with a lighter fighter acting in concert aircraft derived from the J-20 chosen by the Chinese naval aviation, even if this role seems to be entrusted more to combat drones when we observe the model presented of the future Chinese nuclear aircraft carrier (see illustration)

FC31 Defense News | Military aircraft construction | Military naval construction
The future of Shenyang's FC31 Gyrfalcon is still very uncertain, whether in the Chinese naval air forces or in a possible international positioning.

Between the announced construction of a industrial infrastructure optimized for very large units naval, the continuation of the nuclear propulsion program which should be completed between 2025 and 2030, the development of several on-board aircraft and drone programs implemented on CATOBAR aircraft carriers, and the development of electromagnetic catapult technology, it would be more than surprising if China is renouncing, as has been said, the development of a large fleet of aircraft carriers, with the stated goal of being able to match, or even surpass, American naval and air power by 2050.

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