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China’s Fujian aircraft carrier set for ‘new-type’ planes


Nov 4, 2011
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China’s Fujian aircraft carrier set for ‘new-type’ planes​

  • The Chinese warship is the first non-American vessel to use an advanced electromagnetic catapult system for its warplanes
  • The carrier could be used to launch fighters with folding wings, fixed-wing drones and early warning planes, according to state broadcaster CCTV

Published: 11:00pm, 23 Apr, 2023

China’s most modern carrier, the Fujian, will be able to launch “new-type aircraft”, state broadcaster CCTV reported on Saturday.

The carrier, the country’s most advanced so far, has yet to be commissioned but is expected to form a core part of China’s plans to become a blue-water navy whose forces can operate in the open ocean and far from its shores.

The Chinese navy currently operates two aircraft carriers. The Liaoning, modified from a Soviet Kuznetsov-class carrier, was commissioned in China in 2012.

The country’s first domestically built carrier, the Shandong, which took part in the recent large-scale exercise around Taiwan, entered active service in 2019.

Neither carrier features the Fujian’s signature catapult system, which allows planes to launch more frequently and carry more fuel and munitions.

Instead the planes taking off from the older carriers rely on a ski-jump ramp, which also limits the number of planes that can be kept on the flight deck.

The CCTV programme, broadcast on the eve of the navy’s 74th anniversary, did not go into specifics about what “new-type” aircraft could be launched from the Fujian, but said they could include fighters with folding wings, fixed-wing drones and airborne early warning and control planes.

It also said successful mooring and propulsion tests had been carried out – the latter including the engines, circuitry and fuel pipes – signs it may be close to a sea test.

Despite plans for the navy to gain the ability to operate globally, the CCTV report only referred to operations in domestic waters when saying that China would build more aircraft carriers.

“As the Fujian completes further sea trials and finally becomes combat-capable, the People’s Navy will truly step into the era of three aircraft carriers,” it said.

“But due to China’s vast oceans, the demand cannot be met with only three aircraft carriers – the Liaoning, Shandong and Fujian. Therefore, new aircraft carriers are bound to be built in the future.”

The Fujian is the first of the PLA Navy’s Type 003 class, which is only the second carrier class – after the American Gerald R. Ford class – to use a catapult system powered by an electromagnetic motor to launch planes from the deck.

This launch system is more efficient than the older steamed-powered launch catapults, a technology developed soon after the Second World War that is still used on some American ships and France’s sole carrier, the Charles de Gaulle.

The advantage it provides is from preserving fuel after take-off, which increases the warplanes’ range.

Earlier this month satellite images showed the Fujian was still being fitted out in the Jiangnan Shipyard in Shanghai, with its three catapults remaining under cover.

China launched the Fujian at the shipyard on June 17, 2022. It displaces more than 80,000 tonnes of water when fully loaded and measures around 320 metres (1,050 feet) long and 73 metres wide, almost the size of the US Nimitz-class carriers.


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