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China’s biggest aircraft carrier Fujian completes maiden sea trials

With a displacement of nearly 80,000 metric tons, Fujian is bigger than the PLAN’s two active carriers, the 66,000-ton Shandong and the 60,000-ton Liaoning.

Screenshot 2024 05 10 082551NEW DELHI: In a major accomplishment towards its strategic force accretion plan, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) completed the first sea trials of its super carrier within six years of the start of its construction.

The Chinese state news agency Xinhua on Wednesday said China’s third aircraft carrier, Fujian, returned to Shanghai Jiangnan Shipyard at around 3 p.m. Wednesday after completing its maiden sea trials.

During the eight-day sea trials, “Fujian tested its propulsion and electrical systems and other equipment, and achieved the expected results,” said Xinhua, adding, “In the next stage, the aircraft carrier will conduct follow-up tests according to established plans.”

As per the plans, Xinhua said the sea trials primarily tested the reliability and stability of the aircraft carrier’s propulsion and electrical systems.

Launched in 2022, the warship is done with its “mooring trials, outfitting work and equipment adjustments”.

With a displacement of nearly 80,000 metric tons, Fujian is bigger than the PLAN’s two active carriers, the 66,000-ton Shandong and the 60,000-ton Liaoning.

Currently only the United States Navy operates bigger aircraft carriers which are above 80,000 metric tons.

Fujian will be using the upgraded electromagnetic aircraft launch system (EMALS) which the US Navy uses for its advanced super carriers.

Both the Shandong and Liaoning carriers are short take-off but arrested recovery (STOBAR) designs, using an angled bow/ski-jump to provide additional lift for embarked aircraft on take-off.

The other aircraft launch system is catapult-assisted take-off but arrested recovery (CATOBAR) aircraft launch system. CATOBAR is a system used for the launch and recovery of aircraft from the deck of an aircraft carrier. It enhances the aircraft’s payload capacity.

An aircraft carrier is a floating airfield and adds to the surge capability as the fighter jets operating from land will always have their limitations.

Currently, the Indian Navy has two aircraft carriers, INS Vikramaditya and INS Vikrant, in its inventory which use the STOBAR system.

India has been successful in manufacturing its biggest and modern Indigenous Aircraft Carrier INS Vikrant. Its keel was laid in February 2009 and it was commissioned in September 2022. It is designed by the Indian Navy’s in-house Warship Design Bureau (WDB) and built by Cochin Shipyard Limited. Vikrant has been built with state of the art automation features and is the largest ship ever built in the maritime history of India.

“We have gained expertise and an ecosystem is set. Thus it will bring down the construction period,” a source added.

In November 2023, approval for India’s second indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC-2) by the Defence Procurement Board (DPB) moved ahead with the proposal of the Indian Navy. IAC-2 will be on the lines of the IAC-1 commissioned as INS Vikrant.

In addition, TNIE reported in February 2023 that in order to maintain its operational capabilities, the Indian Navy will continue the study for its third indigenous aircraft carrier which will be larger than IAC-2.

The Indian Navy has been maintaining the three carriers-based force structure so that it can operate two of them in maritime zones on the Indian coastline’s eastern and western coasts. This can only happen when the Navy has three carriers as one can be used as a substitute when either of the first two undergoes maintenance.

Aircraft carriers are known to have long maintenance schedules. The cycle of maintenance can lead to an absence of a carrier for years. The push to maintain credible force levels is based on the threat perceptions and changing international dynamic. China has been successful in beating deadlines in adding to its military might after starting the manufacture of its first aircraft carrier in 2012.

China has become the biggest Navy with 355 warships and submarines while India’s total fleet strength is 130. “Keeping in mind our pace, even if we take a decision on the carrier today, it will take over a year to begin the process of manufacturing,” said a defence source.

As reported earlier by The New Indian Express, officials had said that given the Chinese belligerence in the Indian Ocean, the country will have to extend air power into far-off areas like the Malacca Strait on one side and the Gulf of Aden on the other.

“Concentration of force is a principle of war. If you have two operationally ready carriers, you can be active in two areas. If needed, you can move it, bringing a different environment to the battle,” the source added.

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