China's second aircraft carrier will be based on dated Soviet designs

China’s first domestically-made aircraft carrier will be based on dated soviet designs,the South China Morning Post reports.

The new carrier will be conventionally powered and will have a displacement of 50,000 tonnes, slightly less than the Liaoning, China’s current aircraft carrier.

Despite it’s smaller size, it is projected to carry more aircraft and have updated defensive capabilities.

The second unnamed carrier will essentially be a Chinese-built version of the Liaoning, which started as an unfinished Ukrainian vessel that China bought in 1998 and currently only functions as a training vessel.

The new vessel will borrow from some of the eight truckloads of blueprints China recieved from Ukraine along with the Liaoning.

Though China hasn’t fully realised the power-projection capabilities of an aircraft carrier, the Liaoning has served an important role in allowing the PLA air force to practice launching aircraft from a carrier.

But as tensions mount over maritime disputes in the South China Sea, expediency seems to be the name of the game for China. In 2014, a Chinese naval official said that China needed at least three aircraft carriers to maintain their interests abroad.

As James Goldrick of the Interpreter points out, a “lack of drafting expertise to translate the design concepts of naval architects into the detailed compartment-by-compartment drawings that allow the shipbuilders to do their work” has been holding China’s naval aspirations back.

China is taking perhaps the quickest possible course towards increasing it’s carrier count.

A Chinese general said that they were capable of building a catapult-based aircraft carrier, like the ones in the US’ inventory, but they opted for the ski-jump based soviet design to make transitioning from the Liaoning easier on pilots, the South China Morning Post reports.

Currently, the only aircraft capable of taking off from China’s soviet-based aircraft carriers is the J-15, which itself is based on an older Soviet model.

J-15SinaA J-15 approaches China’s Liaoning aircraft carrier.

In order for China’s next aircraft carrier to have truly modern defences, they will need more than just a fighter jet aboard the carrier. But the Chinese have proven resourceful and resolved to present a the world with a modern navy as experts predict the South China Sea will become the “battleground of the future.”

In lieu of a costly, vulnerable aircraft carrier, China went an unconventional route in the South China Sea by constructing entirely new islands, and a nearly two-mile long airstrip that can serve as a permanent, low-tech alternative to aircraft carriers.

Csis south china seaAsia Maritime Transparency Initiative/CSISGraphic depicting the military capacity of China’s man-made islands in the South China Sea.

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