China prepares to launch first indigenously built aircraft carrier

IHS Jane's Defence Weekly
Yao Jianing

Key Points

China is close to launching its second aircraft carrier, and the first to be built indigenously

Beijing is on track to operate at least two aircraft carriers by 2020

The People's Liberation Army Navy's (PLAN's) first indigenously built aircraft carrier is being prepared for launch, a 23 April report carried by China Global Television Network (CGTN) - a subsidiary of China Central Telvision (CCTV) - has confirmed.

The preparations, which included a flooding of the carrier's dry dock "for one last check to see if the ship is ready for launch", are being done against the backdrop of the PLAN's 68th anniversary celebrations, said the report.

The Chinese Ministry of National Defence (MND) first confirmed in December 2015 that the country's second aircraft carrier, which is more commonly referred to as the Type 001A, was being built at the Dalian Shipyard. MND spokesperson Senior Colonel Wu Qian further stated in a late March 2017 media conference that the carrier will be launched soon, although at that point he did not confirm if the event would take place on 23 April to coincide with the PLAN's anniversary date.

The platform will be powered by conventional engines, feature a displacement of about 50,000 tonnes, and will be equipped with fighter aircraft launch systems similar to those found onboard its first carrier Liaoning , which was acquired from Ukraine and commissioned in 2012. Like its predecessor, the vessel will likely operate Shenyang J-15 fighter aircraft using a ski-jump enabled short take-off but arrested recovery (STOBAR) launch concept.

Recent images of the vessel published on Chinese internet forums suggest that work on the platform's livery is complete with surrounding construction scaffoldings dismantled, lending further credence to the belief that a formal launch ceremony is impending.

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