Named “Fujian”, the ship is the first catapult aircraft carrier designed and built in China, the Xinhua State News Agency reported.
The new system, similar to those used by US aircraft carriers, will allow China to launch a wider variety of aircraft from Fujian faster and with more ammunition.
In addition to the launch system, the Fujian is equipped with locking devices and a full-load displacement of more than 80,000 tons, Xinhua reported, adding that the ship will perform mooring and navigation tests after launch.
Matthew Funaiole, a senior member of the CSIS China Project, told CNN earlier that the new ship would be the “first incursion of the Chinese army into a modern aircraft carrier.”
“This is a pretty significant step forward,” he said. “They are really committed to creating a carrier program and continue to push the boundaries of what they are capable of doing.”
China names its aircraft carriers with its coastal provinces, with Liaoning to the northeast and Shandong to the east. Fujian, in the southeast, is the closest province to Taiwan, separated by a strait that is less than 80 miles (128 kilometers) wide at its narrowest point.
The ruling Communist Party of China claims sovereignty over Taiwan’s self-governing democracy, even though it has never ruled it. Chinese leader Xi Jinping has repeatedly said that “reunification” between China and Taiwan is inevitable and has refused to rule out the use of force.
China now has the largest naval force in the world, and aircraft carriers are the basic ships in the fleet of any major power. Massive ships are essentially a mobile air base, allowing the rapid and long-term deployment of aircraft and weapons to a combat theater.
China’s naval buildup comes amid growing geopolitical tensions with the United States, which under President Joe Biden seeks to strengthen ties with allies and partners in the Asia-Pacific region to counter the growing economic influence and military power of the United States. Beijing. pact between the US, UK and Australia called AUKUS, an agreement by which the three nations would exchange military information and technology to form a closer defense partnership in Asia. The naval exercises attended by members of the resurrected informal dialogue between the US, Japan, Australia and India, known as the Quad, have further troubled Beijing.
China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, was an unfinished Soviet-era ship that Beijing bought in Ukraine in 1998, upgraded and finally put into service in 2012.
The Chinese military used the technological knowledge it gained from the ship to build its first nationally built carrier, the Shandong, which entered service in December 2019.
But even though China’s two initial aircraft carriers increased their naval power, their capacity was still far behind the U.S., which has a total of 11 of the ships in service.
In addition, both Liaoning and Shandong relied on obsolete Soviet technology. These two carriers used the ski jump launch system, where the planes simply took off from a light ramp, while the American carriers used a more advanced catapult system to launch their planes.
Airplanes launched with catapults can go out into the air faster and with higher amounts of fuel and ammunition, which gives them an advantage over airplanes launched with ski jumps, which depend on their own power when it comes to ‘take off.
However, despite the advanced launch system, CSIS Funaiole said there is still evidence that the Chinese company is lagging behind its US counterparts, which have more catapults, a larger airway and more elevators for allow faster deployment of aircraft.
All U.S. aircraft carriers also have nuclear propulsion, while Fujian is believed to run on conventional steam propulsion, which Funaiole said would limit its range. “(Although) this may be a less important factor for China right now, as many of its interests are close to the sea,” he said.
After its launch, the Fujian will have to be fully tested and equipped before it can be officially launched and put into service.
Initially, the U.S. Department of Defense had estimated that the carrier would be ready for active service in 2023, but has now advanced that date to 2024.
The Shandong aircraft carrier also took two years from launch in 2017 until it finally entered service in 2019. In addition, Fujian could have trouble operating the electromagnetic launch technology of its catapults.
Even the United States has struggled to use the same system with its latest carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford, which has caused long delays in deployment.