Chinese officials have confirmed that the country is currently building a second aircraft carrier, according to a number of Chinese and Taiwanese media sources.
The former political commissar of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy Liu Xioajiang told the Hong Kong Commercial Daily that a second aircraft carrier’s construction is now in the hands of governmental agencies, according to news translations by Focus Taiwan.
Liu also hinted that Beijing’s second carrier, which would be China’s first indigenously produced carrier, was only the start of the nation’s maritime ambitions.
“I think if we need carriers, the more the better. The key is how much funding do we have,” Liu said. Liu envisioned Beijing having at least three carriers at its command so that they could alternate between being at port, at sea, and deployed for training exercises.
China’s second carrier is expected to be a significant upgrade over China’s current Liaoning carrier. The Liaoning is a 302-meter former Soviet vessel capable of carrying 50 aircraft or helicopters. Although the carrier’s size is daunting, the Liaoning is a 25-year-old vessel that’s prone to mechanical problems. It’s more of a test carrier than an actual tool for Chinese force projection.
The Liaoning also uses a ski-slope, a ramp at the end of the carrier, to launch aircraft. China’s new carrier is expected to use a catapult system like that of US carriers which would enable the launching of aircraft even in rough weather, the Want China Times reports citing a Chinese naval power and electrical engineering specialist.
These are not the first official reports to come from China regarding the construction of an indigenous carrier. Satellite images have shown a model flight deck for an aircraft carrier in Wuhan Province that is estimated at being 300 meters (984 feet) long and 80 meters (262 feet) wide.
According to AFP, Chinese media reported on how a company won a contract to supply the cabling necessary for the vessel’s construction. Late last year, another Chinese media story quoted Wang Min, the Communist Party secretary of Liaoning province, talking about how Beijing was expecting to have a second aircraft carrier by around 2020.
Both stories were promptly deleted from Chinese media after being posted.
The drive to develop an aircraft carrier is in keeping with Beijing’s ambition of becoming its region’s leading military power. In addition to the carrier, China has been developing a new generation of anti-ship cruise missiles, guided missile naval destroyers, and ballistic missile submarines in an effort to more effectively project power away from the Chinese coastline.