China’s first domestic aircraft carrier is nearing construction completion

China’s first indigenous carrier is coming into being. Laid down in 2015 with an expected launch date in 2017 or 2018, China’s second aircraft carrier may enter full service sometime around 2020.

The hull of China’s first domestically built aircraft carrier has been assembled, according to the nation’s Ministry of National Defense. Design work has been completed, and equipment is currently being installed.

* it will be powered by gas or diesel/gas turbines
* it has a ski jump ramp like the first Chinese aircraft carrier (a rebuild of an obsolete Russian carrier obtained from the Ukraine)
* Weapons will include China’s latest phased array radar, short-range anti-aircraft missiles and quick-firing cannons.
* CV-17 will carrier Shenyang J-15 fighters (a variant of the J-11, itself part of the larger Su-27 “Flanker” family of aircraft). CV-17 may someday carry the J-31 stealth fighter
* aircraft launched from CV-17 will lack the range, payload, and command and control tools necessary to undertaking independent expeditionary operations.

CV-17 is, by far, the largest military vessel ever constructed in a Chinese shipyard. The number of shipyards worldwide that can handle construction of an aircraft carrier is remarkably small, and the workforce expertise needed to build the ship disappears quickly. In a sense, CV-17 is as useful for industrial purposes as she will be for military; the experience gained in her construction will set the table for the next Chinese carriers, which may have a more modern, effective design.

In particular, Chinese shipbuilders need to overcome several hurdles before they begin constructing first rate carriers. They need to either develop effective models of nuclear propulsion for surface ships, or scale up existing conventional powerplants (Chinese engine manufacturing has struggled with reliability). They need to decide whether to install steam catapults (an exceedingly complex process) or jump straight to electro-magnetic; some reports suggest that CV-17 may have catapults in addition to a ski-jump, which would make sense primarily from an industrial-capability point of view.

The Chinese Navy will move on to a larger, more advanced design after CV-17. Innovations may include many of the systems taken for granted on American carriers, such as catapults (steam or electro-magnetic), and nuclear propulsion. If so, this suggests that CV-17 is a stepping stone, enabling the Chinese shipbuilding industry to gain experience with larger vessels

With plans to build two more carriers, the Chinese Navy has built up its largest carrier-based pilot team after more than three years of intensive training

SOURCES- Maritime Executive, National Interest