Saturday, January 2, 2016

China Says It Is Building Its Second Aircraft Carrier

Photo
China's first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, at the port city of Dalian.CreditAgence France-Presse — Getty Images
BEIJING — China is building a second aircraft carrier, the country’s Ministry of National Defense confirmed on Thursday. But unlike the first, this one will be produced entirely using China’s own designs and technology, the ministry said.
A spokesman for the ministry, Col. Yang Yujun, said at a monthly news briefing in Beijing that the second aircraft carrier was being built in Dalian, a port city in northeast China. He did not indicate when the ship would be completed.
China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, went into servicein September 2012. It was built from a castoff, uncompleted vessel bought from Ukraine in 1998 and refurbished by the Chinese Navy.
“After taking into account a range of factors, the relevant authorities launched work on developing a second aircraft carrier, and we are now undertaking our own indigenous design and construction,” Colonel Yang said, according to atranscript of the news briefing on the ministry’s website.
“The design and construction of this second aircraft carrier have absorbed valuable experience from scientific experiments and training with the Liaoning,” he said.
The announcement was unlikely to surprise foreign analysts, who for months have circulated and pored over pictures of an unfinished hull, which indicated that a carrier was being built in Dalian. The images also circulated on Chinese websites, suggesting that the government was making no particular effort to hide its plans.
A second carrier would bring the People’s Liberation Army Navy a step closer to its ambition of becoming a powerful force capable of asserting China’s territorial claims and national influence far from Beijing.
“We have a long coastline and a broad maritime jurisdiction,” Colonel Yang said. “Defending national maritime security, and safeguarding sovereignty over territorial seas and over maritime rights and interests, are sacred duties of China’s armed forces.”
In November, the Chinese military revealed plans to build a logistics outpost in the East African nation of Djibouti, breaking with a longstanding reluctance to establish military facilities abroad.
In September, President Xi Jinping announced plans to cut 300,000 personnel from the military’s ranks, China’s biggest troop reduction in nearly two decades, to make more resources available for technological modernization and better-trained forces. The Communist Party leadership has endorsed plans to reorganize the People’s Liberation Army so traditional ground forces have less influence.
But the few details disclosed by Colonel Yang at the news briefing also suggested that China was moving incrementally toward developing an array of aircraft carriers.
He said that the second carrier would have a displacement, a measure of a ship’s weight, of 50,000 metric tons and use a “ski jump” takeoff technique for aircraft. The Liaoning has a displacement of 58,500 tons and also uses a ski jump for takeoffs.
By contrast, the United States Navy’s Nimitz-class carriers have a displacement of about 88,000 tons when fully loaded. The ski ramp takeoff limits the loads of fuel and ammunition that planes can carry, relative to the more difficult catapult takeoff system that the United States Navy has developed.
The People’s Liberation Army Navy has used the Liaoning carrier to hone the skills of fighter pilots and other personnel, but the carrier has not yet been absorbed into the growing Chinese naval forces regularly ready for missions.