China’s 3rd aircraft carrier Fujian completes 8-day maiden sea trial

Fujian is an 80,000-tonne supercarrier

Published - May 09, 2024 08:24 pm IST - NEW DELHI

In this May 8, 2024, photo released by Xinhua News Agency, China’s third aircraft carrier, the Fujian, conducts a maiden sea trials on May 1, 2024.

In this May 8, 2024, photo released by Xinhua News Agency, China’s third aircraft carrier, the Fujian, conducts a maiden sea trials on May 1, 2024. | Photo Credit: AP

China’s third aircraft carrier, Fujian, has successfully completed its 8-day maiden sea trials. Fujian is an 80,000-tonne supercarrier with electromagnetic catapults for launching aircraft, making China the second country after the U.S. to field a supercarrier with this technology.

“During the sea trial, the aircraft carrier tested its propulsion, electrical systems, and other equipment, and achieved the expected results. In the next stage, PLANS Fujian will conduct follow-up tests according to established plans,” according to China Military Online, the English language news website of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The aircraft carrier set sail for trials from Jiangnan Shipyard in Shanghai on May 01.

The developments will be watched very closely by India and other countries in the region which are also planning to build aircraft carriers as Beijing rapidly expands its maritime power and presence.

According to state media Global Times, Fujian is expected to operate not only improved versions of the J-15 fighter jet but also new aircraft including the next-generation stealth fighter jet J-35, the fixed-wing early warning aircraft the KJ-600 and the JL-10 advanced trainer jet.

Named after East China’s Fujian Province and given the hull number 18, the carrier was launched in June 2022. Last month, China announced that it is building its fourth aircraft carrier, likely a nuclear-powered supercarrier, to be unveiled very soon. China’s first aircraft carrier Liaoning, a refurbished Soviet carrier, was commissioned in 2012 and the second carrier Shadong was launched in 2017. That’s a tremendous pace of carrier construction.

In an interview last week, outgoing Commander of Hawaii-based U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) Adm John Aquilino said that in the three years since he’s been in command, China has built more than 400 aircraft, 20 major warships, and doubled its missile inventory.

Indian Navy’s carriers

Indian Navy currently operates two aircraft carriers – refurbished Russian carrier INS Vikramaditya, commissioned in 2013, and indigenously designed and built INS Vikrant, commissioned in September 2022.

In the second half of last year, the Indian Navy has moved the case for a second Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC-II), a repeat of a Vikrant-like carrier which has been approved by the Defence Procurement Board last September. It is now awaiting approval by the Defence Acquisition Council, expected to be taken up after the elections. The IAC-II is a priority given that it will be ready in time to replace INS Vikramaditya, which will at best last for another 15 years.

The IAC-II displacing 45,000 tonnes will see some modifications and newer technologies incorporated in the original design of the Vikrant and will also be manufactured by Cochin Shipyard Limited (CSL). It will take around eight to 10 years to build a new carrier, Madhu S. Nair, Chairman and Managing Director of CSL, told The Hindu as reported earlier, as long as the basic design, engines and propulsion are kept intact. The Navy has shelved its earlier plans for a 65,000-tonne carrier given the whole new technology cycle involved and the resultant cost and timelines.

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