BEIJING, January 4 (ChinaMil) -- Senior Colonel Yang Yujun, spokesman for the Ministry of National Defense (MND) of the People's Republic of China (PRC), made the first public confirmation at the MND's regular press conference on December 31, 2015, that China is building its second (the first China-made) aircraft carrier. This piece of news was as significant as the news about the "atomic and hydrogen bombs and man-made satellite" many years ago.
The MND chose to confirm the news on December 31, 2015, indicating that the first China-made aircraft carrier is about to be launched. If the confirmation came later, the outside world wouldn't have a long enough buffer time to digest and accept the information, and some countries and media would have an excuse to hype up the "China Threat", leaving China in a passive position.
Actually, based on the current progress, the first China-made aircraft carrier will be able to enter the water in 2016 and is likely to have the hull number of 17.
About the second aircraft carrier
According to Yang Yujun, the second aircraft carrier is designed independently by China and is being built in Dalian.
It has a conventional power plant with a displacement of 50,000 tons. It will carry J-15 fighter jets and other ship-borne aircraft, and the fixed-wing aircraft on-board will adopt ski-jump take-off mode. Various types of equipment will be installed to meet the needs of fulfilling its missions.
The design and construction of the second aircraft carrier, having drawn on a lot of useful experience from the scientific tests and training of the first aircraft carrier Liaoning, will have new improvements in many aspects.
The above short paragraphs reveal a lot of information. First of all, the second aircraft carrier is independently designed by China, which is a hard-won achievement.
China is not the first developing country to launch its own aircraft carrier (India's home-made INS Viraat entered the water on December 29, 2011), but it's the first developing country t to build a 50,000-ton-class aircraft carrier driven by conventional power.
Second, referring to the aircraft carrier Liaoning in its general design, which is modified from the Varyag of the former Soviet Union, the second aircraft carrier continues to adopt the mature "ski jump" takeoff mode and steam turbine power system.
This fully reflects China's "small yet quick steps" development guideline for its naval vessel and is conducive to forming combat capability as early as possible.
However, compared with aircraft carrier Liaoning, the second aircraft carrier is bound to have major improvements in its details, and the design of such details as the layout of the flight deck, hangar and island will be more rational, resulting in significantly improved overall performance.
What's most important is that it will be China's first aircraft carrier with combat capability in the real sense of the word, whereas Liaoning, which is only a training carrier in nature, is unable to play a key role in fleet operations even though it's the first officially commissioned aircraft carrier in the Chinese Navy.
It was the first time in the history of the People's Republic of China that the MND confirmed the existence of its second aircraft carrier before it was completed and launched, and rarely introduced some of its performance and technical features.
This fully demonstrates the confidence and transparency of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) that's about to implement a massive military reform.
According to the plan for strengthening the military through reform, the PLA will adjust and improve its services’ proportion and optimize their structure, as fully demonstrated by the construction of the second aircraft carrier.
Aircraft carrier Liaoning sets sail for training from a military port in Qingdao, east China's Shandong province, on November 26, 2013. (File Photo)
Not a clone of aircraft carrier Liaoning
In which aspects will the second aircraft carrier be improved？Major improvements are probably concentrated on the following aspects:
First, the island of the second aircraft carrier is re-designed. The Soviet Union's ship-borne radar and electronic equipment is large and heavy, leading to a large island on the Varyad and taking up the valuable space on flight deck.
When modifying the Varyad, China didn't change the original island structure for stability and project simplification. But with the second aircraft carrier, the island of the aircraft carrier is sure to be reduced in size to make the island more compact and increase the space on flight deck.
Second, the hangar is re-designed. The original Varyad had 12 huge SS-N-19 heavy-duty anti-ship missiles under the bow deck. Although they were removed when the carrier was modified into the Liaoning, the space couldn't be expanded into a hangar because of the restriction of the original design.
The second aircraft carrier won't waste valuable onboard space, and will re-design the hangar to carry more ship-borne aircraft and enhance the aviation combat capability.
Third, the second aircraft carrier will be equipped with the same phased array radar as those on the 052D destroyer. Other improvements may also include re-designing some cabins onboard, and installing more advanced satellite communication system, electronic warfare system, and command and control system.
As the second aircraft carrier is to enter the water soon, the PLA Navy's aircraft carrier combat taskforce in the real sense has gradually taken shape.
According to the standard composition of American Navy’s aircraft carrier taskforce, it consists of 1 to 3 aircraft carriers, 1 to 2 regional anti-aircraft guided missile cruisers, 2 to 3 regional anti-aircraft guided missile destroyers, 2 to 4 multi-purpose guided missile frigates, 1 to 2 attack nuclear submarines, and 1 to 3 large ocean-going comprehensive replenishment ships.
After the second aircraft carrier is commissioned, it can join the Liaoning to form a double-carrier taskforce.
When the 12,000-ton-class 055 guided missile destroyer is commissioned, it can play the same role as the Ticonderoga-class Aegis guided missile cruiser in the American navy, while the role of Arleigh Burke-class Aegis guided missile destroyer can be played by 052D guided missile destroyer.
After the Oliver Hazard Perry class frigate was decommissioned, there was no frigate in the American Navy’s aircraft carrier taskforce, but the Chinese Navy’s aircraft carrier taskforce can include two to four 054A guided missile frigates that mainly undertake anti-submarine and anti-aircraft tasks.
It is said that China's new-generation type-095 attack nuclear submarine is able to compete with America's Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine, and is therefore able to play the role of "underwater guardian" in the aircraft carrier taskforce.
Besides, the first of China's latest type-901 40,000-ton-class large comprehensive replenishment ship has recently begun sea trial and will be officially commissioned soon. 1 to 3 ships of the same class will guarantee the logistic replenishment of the entire aircraft carrier taskforce.
As to ship-borne aircraft, the second aircraft carrier will continue to carry the current aircraft on the Liaoning, including J-15 heavy-duty ship-borne fighter jets and Z-18 anti-submarine helicopters.
Not long ago, training photos of six loaded J-15 fighter jets on the aircraft carrier Liaoning were published for the first time, indicating that the Chinese naval ship-borne aircraft is able to carry out systematic training, one step closer to forming complete combat capability.
J-15S two-seat multi-purpose ship-borne fighter jets, fixed wing early warning aircraft and even stealth ship-borne aircraft may also appear on the second aircraft carrier.
According to the construction schedule of the warships and ship-borne aircraft mentioned above, we have reason to believe that the first ocean-going aircraft carrier combat taskforce of the PLA Navy will possess initial combat capability in 2018 or 2019.
At that time, the PLA Navy, a maritime force taking maintaining world maritime peace as its duty, will present a new image in the world.
The authors are Huang Guozhi and Shi Hong, reporters from the Southern Weekly. The opinions expressed here are those of the writers and don't represent views of China Military Online website.