China’s Type 003 Fujian aircraft carrier has been seen as a great leap forward for the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). It is China’s first carrier with a completely indigenous design. It will utilize a CATOBAR system and electromagnetic catapults. Naval analyst Robert Farley characterized the Fujian, which was launched just last year, as the largest and most advanced aircraft carrier ever built outside the United States.
In addition to its capabilities, state media reported that the Fuijan’s air wing will include a new type of aircraft.
According to Chinese state broadcaster CCTV, the carrier’s signature catapult system will allow aircraft to launch more frequently and carry more fuel and munitions. The PLAN’s two operational carriers — the Type 001 Liaoning and Type 002 Shandong — each utilize a ski-jump ramp that limits the number of planes and other aircraft that can be kept on the flight deck.
More Advanced Carrier
To mark the 74th anniversary of the founding of the PLAN, CCTV reported on the advanced capabilities of the Type 003 Fujian and noted that it will operate with a “new-type” aircraft that could be launched from its deck. Though it didn’t offer any specifics on the aircraft, the report noted that the carrier could be equipped with fighters with folding wings, fixed-wing drones, and airborne early warning and control planes.
The report added that the carrier has undergone successful mooring and propulsion tests — and these have included tests of its engines, electrical circuitry, and fuel pipes. With those tests completed, the warship could be close to its first sea trials.
The Fujian is only the second carrier — after the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) — to utilize an electromagnetic catapult system. The U.S. Navy’s Nimitz class and the French Navy flagship Charles de Gaulle employ steam-powered launch catapults, a system developed after the Second World War. However, all future Ford-class carriers will be equipped with an electromagnetic system.
This system can increase the number of take-offs in combat operations. It can also reduce the fuel an aircraft uses on take-off, increasing its range.
Focus Beyond Domestic Waters
The PLAN has a goal to operate globally, but the CCTV report referred to operations in domestic waters while adding that Beijing could build additional flattops to bolster its naval capabilities.
“As the Fujian completes further sea trials and finally becomes combat-capable, the People’s Navy will truly step into the era of three carriers,” the CCTV report noted. “But due to China’s vast oceans, the demand cannot be met with only three aircraft carriers – the Liaoning, the Shandong, and Fujian. Therefore, new aircraft carriers are bound to be built in the future.”
The Type 003 Fujian was launched in June of last year.
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A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.