As part of China’s ongoing plans to modernise its military and develop a fully capable blue water navy — a force that can ply the open oceans — Beijing has repeatedly put emphasis on the development of aircraft carriers.
At the center of China’s current efforts is the aircraft carrier Liaoning. Originally built for the Soviet Navy and then later acquired from Ukraine, the Liaoning is not the newest, most capable, or most technically advanced carrier in the world. Or even in East Asia, for that matter.
But still, the carrier is a bold move for China and a good learning point for Beijing as the country modernizes its navy. This is especially true as Beijing works towards building its own natively built aircraft carrier for future deployment.
The following 3-D model from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) showcases the main abilities of the Liaoning.
According to CSIS, the Liaoning and its accompanying air wing are a “significant leap in air capability for the PLAN, but its inherent capability is limited much like the carrier itself.” These limitations are largely due to the age of the Liaoning, which relies on a relatively outdated and inefficient power plant, a ski slope aircraft launching platform instead of the more effective catapult system used by the US, and a relative lack of experience amongst China’s pilots.
Still, though, in terms of pure size and ability to carry munitions, aircraft, and supplies, the Liaoning represents a major advance for China. Aside from US supercarriers that rotate in and out of the region, the Liaoning is the largest carrier in the region weighing in at 60,000 tons.