China will use steam catapults on its third aircraft carrier instead of electromagnetic launch but the fourth will mostly catchup to US technology

The South China Morning Post reports that China will not adopt highly advanced electromagnetic take-off technology on its second domestically built aircraft carrier but instead rely on a conventional steam system, naval experts say.

The next carrier (TYpe 002) after the Liaoning and the Type 001A carrier under construction in Dalian – would be equipped with at least three natural steam launch catapults, a source close to the navy told the South China Morning Post.

But it would be the first Chinese aircraft carrier to use this type of launch system.

“There are still some technical problems with China’s magnetic launcher, so the Type 002 will still use steam catapults,” the source said.

In 2013 the deputy chief-of-staff of the People’s Liberation Army confirmed China was developing new aircraft carriers that would be much larger and more capable than the old Soviet design.

Little is known about ‘Project 002’. The South China Morning Post says work began on the ship in 2015, in the Shanghai Jiangnan Changxingdao shipyard.

It will be much larger. It may even be nuclear powered.

Beijing may have gained access to steam catapult technology when it took possession of Australia’s last aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne. It was sold to be scrapped in 1985, but its World War II era technology would have still been of great interest to the PLA.

Only the currently-under-construction USS Ford carries shipboard electromagnetic catapults at this stage. And they’re demonstrating an unwelcome tendency to toss aircraft into the sea.

The next Chinese carrier (001a) will likely look very similar to the current Liaoning. The carrier group will have updated destroyers and frigates that provide a more advanced layered defense and missile strike system. It will likely be accompanied by an arsenal of drones.

Certain weapons were excluded from the Type 001A platform to allow more carrier-based J-15 parking. The hanger was also expanded to allow the new carrier to carry between six and eight more J-15 fighter jets than the Liaoning.

“The control tower island on the deck was shrunk 10 per cent, which allow the deck to dock more helicopters and fixed-wing early-warning aircraft,” he said, adding that four weapons sponsons, or projections, on the aft deck had Dismantled

S-band radars with four large antennae would be installed on the top of control tower, he said.

The system is China’s most advanced and is capable of covering a 360-degree search field to scout dozens of targets in the air and at sea.

Four HQ-10 short-range air defence missiles systems with 24 tubes would also deployed on the new ship

The Type 003 carrier will likely look a lot like the Nimitz or Ford class US aircraft carriers. It will have nuclear powered propulsion.

The Type 003 itself would likely have a displacement of around 90,000-100,000 tons and carry anywhere from between 70-100 helicopters and fixed wing aircraft, and have multiple aircraft elevators and a single island superstructure. With a nuclear-powered reactor, the Type 003 could reach speeds in excess of 30 knots. The reactors could also provide the power for electromagnetically assisted launch system (EMALS) catapults (the preceding conventional Type 002 carrier may use steam catapults). EMALS catapults have improved efficiency and are less maintenance intensive than steam catapults.

The EMALS catapult could allow the Type 003 to launch aircraft with a takeoff weight of up to 50 tons, including aerial tankers, airborne early warning aircraft (especially useful to guiding long range missiles against distant aircraft), anti-submarine warfare (ASW) planes, smaller cargo planes and strike aircraft. Given Chinese interest in unmanned vehicles, the Type 003 could come with a UAV for surveillance and reconnaissance. The Type 003’s air group will also have helicopters for ASW and search and rescue missions.

The CVBG’s escort elements will likely consist of Type 055 destroyers and a future Chinese frigate (Type 057?) with an integrated mast. The improved Type 055, upgraded from the current hulls under construction, would have integrated electric propulsion system to increase onboard power generation for sensors and direct energy weapons. It will likely also be armed with over a hundred long-range anti-air and surface attack missiles, in addition to carrying helicopters. Given Chinese interest in unmanned naval vehicles, those surface combatants would likely carry UAVs, UUVs, and USVs for mine countermeasure. For underwater escort, the accompanying submarine would likely be a Type 095 nuclear attack submarine, stealthier and more heavily armed than current Chinese attack boats.

SOURCES- South China Morning Post, News Corp Australia. Popular Science

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