China planning three aircraft carriers and eventual path to nuclear carriers that will copy US supercarrier tech

China’s first domestic carrier, like the Liaoning, might be standard (30,000-40,000 tons) in size. Yin Zhuo, a naval expert, said that it cannot be a supercarrier (over 60,000 tons) , since they are too costly and technologically complex for China.

Another issue at the center of speculation is whether the new carrier will be nuclear-powered. Nuclear-powered aircraft carriers have been the backbone of the US Navy since 1961, when it deployed the Enterprise, the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. The US Navy believes that there are many advantages to using nuclear carriers over conventional carriers, since a similar amount of nuclear fuel can provide millions of times more energy than coal or oil, with the high power density allowing more space for fuel, ammunition and other supplies.

China is considering developing three large nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, the designs of which were found similar to the Nimitz- and Ford-class carriers of the United States.

Jinshuai Model Crafts is displaying models of proposed aircraft carrier hulls 17, 18, and 19 on its website and catalogs. These models provide clues to a vital question: what direction will China’s domestic aircraft carrier design and production take? In short, the models suggest: China will progress as quickly as possible to a large nuclear-powered design, similar to a Nimitz- or Ford-class hull with Chinese characteristics, and let deck aviation capabilities grow into the gargantuan new platform as they become able to do so.

One of the Models that hint at the future of chinese aircraft carriers

In December 2013 China’s Central Military Commission told Duowei News it planned to commission two Liaoning-pattern aircraft carriers by 2020, designated as Type 001A. Contracts have been awarded to China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation to build the two carriers. The cost is projected to be US$9 billion. A waist catapult could be fitted to one or both vessels to facilitate airborne early warning aircraft operation and air control. Presently Liaoning combines unassisted ski-jump launched aircraft with helicopters for antisubmarine and air defense operations.

The design of CV-17 model still bore some characteristics from Liaoning. But CV-18 and CV-19 were completely different.

CV 17 has a length of 315 meter, width of 75 meter, draft of 9 m, and cruising speed of 31 knots. It also has a ski jump like Liaoning. It is credited with a standard displacement of 65,000 tonnes and a full displacement of 80,000 tonnes. It looks similar to the US Nimitz class.

CV 18, meantime, is 330 meter long and 76 meter wide, with a standard displacement of 88,000 tonnes and full displacement at 101,800 tonnes. It is similar to the US Ford class.

SOURCES – Global Times, Andrew Erickson, Jinshuai Model Crafts, Wikipedia