China’s continues work to nuclear aircraft carriers and launches new stealth missile frigates

Beijing has approved funding for major projects to develop core technologies for nuclear-powered vessels, a first official indication of plans to build nuclear-powered aircraft carriers.

China probably kicked off a research program aimed at developing nuclear reactors to power its future aircraft carriers.

A report posted on the website of the state-owned China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC) on Feb. 19 stated that the Ministry of Science and Technology has formally kicked off an effort to develop nuclear power plants for ships.

All of the U.S. Navy’s aircraft carriers and submarines are nuclear powered. The key advantage of nuclear powered ships is that they don’t have to refuel nearly as often as conventionally fueled vessels — think decades rather than months. (On a side note, naval nuclear reactors tend to use highly enriched uranium, the same stuff that’s key to making nuclear weapons.)

China’s planed homemade carriers are said to be based on the Liaoning’s design and will incorporate lessons learned from operating the “starter carrier,” as she has been called. Media reports have suggested that the first two locally built carriers will be conventionally-powered and enter service around 2015, with a third nuclear-powered vessel possibly entering service around 2020.

Regional Power Balance

Economist – A fairly small carrier fitted with a “ski jump” ramp rather than a catapult, the Liaoning is no match for America’s Nimitz-class supercarriers, which are almost double the displacement, let alone the new Ford-class ships, the first of which is expected to enter service in 2015. Nor does China yet have any fast jets to fly from the Liaoning. The Shenyang J-15, a not entirely convincing copy of Russia’s Sukhoi S-33, has flown, but is unlikely to enter service until 2016.

As a military threat to America, the Liaoning is therefore negligible and that will remain true even when it is joined over the next 15 years by two indigenously-built carriers that have been modelled on it. What worries America far more are the impressive anti-access/area denial capabilities that China has built up (mainly with missiles and submarines).

It is likely that the PLAN is seeking a more limited power-projection capability that will support both the defence of China’s regional interests.

Efficient Stealth Missile Frigates

China has launched the first ship in a new class of stealth missile frigates.

The China Defense blog has coverage.

The chinese navy is building a total of 20 Type 056 Jiangdao class frigates to replace older models and bolster its ability to conduct patrols and escort ships as well as submarines in waters it claims in the South and East China Seas.

The helicopter-equipped ships feature a sleek design to reduce clutter and make them harder to spot by radar and are armed with anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles. They also need a crew of just 60, two-thirds fewer than older vessels, a major advantage that should boost efficiency and relieve burdens in training and recruitment. At 1,440 tons fully loaded, each is considerably smaller than US navy frigates, and is categorised by some observers as a member of the smaller class of ship known as corvettes.

Wikipedia – The Type 056 Jiangdao Class corvette is a Chinese light warship that entered service with the People’s Liberation Army Navy in 2012 as a replacement for the Jianghu class frigate and the Type 037 series of patrol vessels.

The Type 056 has a stealthy hull design with sloped surface and a reduced superstructure clutter. There is a helipad at the stern but has no organic helicopter support facilities.

The main anti-ship armament consists of YJ-83 sea-skimming anti-ship cruise missiles in two twin-cell launchers. The primary anti-aircraft armament is one FL-3000N short range missile system with 8 rounds. A 76 mm main gun based on a Russian AK-176 is mounted forward.

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