The first aircraft carrier to be built entirely in China left the shipyard to begin sea trials over the weekend, which marks an important milestone for China’s growing navy. We have more from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.
Chinese state media reported that the new carrier left its shipyard in the port of Dalian, accompanied by a blast of its horn and a display of fireworks.
The as yet unnamed vessel is a slightly larger version of the Liaoning – the Soviet-era aircraft carrier that China picked up from Ukraine in 1998. A side-by-side comparison published in the Chinese newspaper Global Times shows the same ski-jump bow, designed to get jets aloft without the catapults used on the U.S. Navy’s flat deck carriers.
According to Global Times, the new ship will carry up to 36 jet fighters, compared to 24 aboard the Liaoning. Both ships displace 50 thousand tons, and both use conventional engines.
The latest U.S. aircraft carrier, the Gerald R. Ford, displaces twice the weight, carries 75 aircraft and is driven by two nuclear power plants. The U.S. has ten other fleet carriers in commission; Britain, France, Russia, India and Italy, each have one.
According to reports, China has a third carrier of a different design already on the stocks in Shanghai. And analysts quoted by state media say that the Chinese Navy will need at least six. Some experts argue, though, that the aircraft carrier’s day is passing as it becomes vulnerable to new types of anti-ship missiles. Missiles pioneered by China.