PortandTerminal.com, December 17, 2019
China’s second aircraft carrier entered service on Tuesday, adding major firepower to its military ambitions
BEIJING – China’s first domestically made aircraft carrier, the Shandong, was handed over to its navy today in a ceremony that marks a watershed moment for the country’s growing military ambitions.
As a show of strength in the region, the handing over ceremony took place on the shores of the heavily disputed South China Sea.
The Chinese government has said that the new carrier’s design draws on experiences from the country’s first carrier, the Liaoning. The Liaoning, now a 30-year-old warship, was bought second-hand from Ukraine in 1998 and refitted in China.
Two carrier country
Today’s commissioning of its second aircraft carrier will give the Chinese Navy more tactical and strategic options as the two carriers can be deployed in different regions, substitute each other during maintenance or form a dual-carrier battle group.
President Xi Jinping is overseeing a sweeping plan to refurbish the armed forces by developing everything from stealth jets to anti-satellite missiles, as China ramps up its presence in the South China Sea and around self-ruled Taiwan.
Having a displacement of around 40,000-60,000 tons and using a similar ski-jump flight deck as the Liaoning, the conventional-powered Shandong is equipped with more advanced electronic devices and control and command system, and built with an optimized superstructure and internal layout, after gaining actual-use experiences following the Liaoning’s commissioning in 2012, analysts said.
Thanks to these improvements, the Shandong can carry 36 J-15 fighter jets, compared to the Liaoning’s 24, according to a China Central Television (CCTV) report in August.
Unlike the U.S. Navy’s longer-range nuclear carriers, both of China’s feature Soviet-design ski-jump bows, intended to provide sufficient take-off lift for fighter jets. They lack the powerful catapult launch technology U.S. carriers have.
Last month the new Shandong carrier, still unnamed at the time, sailed through the sensitive Taiwan Strait on its way to what China called routine exercises in the South China Sea.
Taiwan denounced the move, saying Beijing was trying to intimidate it.
China’s military has not formally announced plans for the third carrier, but official state media have said it is being built.
State media have quoted experts as saying China needs at least six carriers. The United States operates 10 and plans to build two more.
Most experts agree that developing such a force will be a decades-long task for China, but progress on a home-built carrier boosts prestige for Beijing, seen by many experts as keen to eventually erode U.S. military prominence in the region.
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