Liaoning party chief Wang Min said the Chinese navy had started work on the country’s second aircraft carrier and had plans for four, according to the South China Morning Post.
Richard Fisher, a military expert from US thinktank the International Assessment and Strategy Center, said China may have between four and five aircraft carriers in active service by 2030. This number may eventually increase to 10 in the next few decades. Admiral Jonathan Greenert, the US chief of naval operation said, however, that the gap between US and Chinese aircraft carriers is still large. While a US carrier is capable of launching and retrieving 100 aircraft simultaneously, a Chinese aircraft carrier can only operate 10.
The Singapore Straits Times had said China’s first domestically built aircraft carrier will be able to carry 50 J-15B carrier-based fighters and other aircraft such as the K-8 or the Z-8 early warning helicopters. In the future, between 25 and 27 stealth fighters such as the J-20 or the J-31 may serve aboard the Chinese aircraft carriers to replace the J-15, the PLA’s current carrier-based fighter.
Air power on board carriers
* The carriers will have an overall length of 320 meters and a planned displacement of 85,000 tonnes. The Liaoning has an overall length of 300 meters and a displacement of 67,000 tonnes.
* There will be two side deck lifts to transfer aircraft from hangar to flight deck, an electromagnetic catapult with a length of 120m to 150m on the angled flight deck, as well as a bow ski jump as on the Liaoning, which helps aircraft with quicker take-offs.
The carriers will be able to carry a maximum of 50 J-15B sized fighter jets, although in practice, this will be limited to 46 J-15Bs and six Ka-31 or Z-8 airborne early warning helicopters. When fully developed, a flight of JZY-1 airborne early warning aircraft, which is similar in appearance to the US Navy’s E-2D Hawkeye, will be embarked for all combat missions.
The normal strike wing of the Liaoning comprises between 18 and 20 J-15Bs. The new aircraft carriers will have between 25 and 27 J-20 stealth fighters, which are expected to replace the J-15B as China’s new carrier-borne strike fighter.
The Chengdu J-20 is a Stealth, twin-engine fifth-generation fighter aircraft prototype being developed by Chengdu Aerospace Corporation for the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF). The J-20 made its first flight on 11 January 2011, and is expected to be operational in 2017–2019.
China’s J-20 platform has the potential to be a capable, long-range strike system in the Asia-Pacific region, but a number of technical challenges will need to be overcome before production can begin. The J-20 has a long and wide fuselage, with the chiseled nose section and a frameless canopy resembling that of the F-22 Raptor.
SOURCES – South China Morning Post, Strait Times, Defense Tech, WantChinaTimes