China looking to induct three more aircraft carriers

Analysts say Beijing is now focused on developing "floating airfields" following the 'Pivot to Asia' docrine of the US and the simmering disputes in South China Sea.

February 05, 2015 03:13 pm | Updated 03:30 pm IST - BEIJING

In this September 22, 2012 photo, China's first aircraft carrier, which was renovated from an old aircraft carrier that China bought from Ukraine in 998, is seen docked at Dalian Port, in Dalian, Liaoning province.

In this September 22, 2012 photo, China's first aircraft carrier, which was renovated from an old aircraft carrier that China bought from Ukraine in 998, is seen docked at Dalian Port, in Dalian, Liaoning province.

China may add up to three more aircraft carriers to its arsenal as a deterrent to the accumulation of forces in the Asia-Pacific under the US’ “Pivot to Asia” doctrine.

The People’s Daily, China’s official newspaper is quoting Cao Weidong, a military specialist as saying that “China pursues a defensive national defence policy and four aircraft carriers are appropriate.”

So far, China only has Liaoning, as its sole aircraft carrier. The Soviet-era warship, called Varyag earlier, was purchased from Ukraine, and commissioned in 2012.

The Chinese have so far refrained from officially declaring the exact number of aircraft carriers that they wish to induct in their arsenal. However, during a briefing in August 2013, Chinese Defence Ministry spokesperson Yang Yujun observed that while the Liaoning is China's first aircraft carrier, it certainly won't be the last.

Mr. Cao pointed out that aircraft carriers are typically required for training, maintenance and duty.  “If China has four aircraft carriers, with two in the South China Sea and two in northern China, they can better accomplish their missions,” he observed.

Regarding the size of the carrier, which largely determines it aerial punch, he recommended that China should build 60000-80000 tonne ships. A typical 60,000 tonne ship can board 30-40 fighter jets, nearly half of the 70-80 planes that can board the 100,000 tonne aircraft carriers of the United States, in order to exercise “sea control”. In comparison, India’s aircraft carrier, Vikramaditya has a displacement of around 40,000 tonnes.


A relative latecomer, China established its first carrier-based air force only in May 2013. However, analysts say that Beijing now appears focused on developing these “floating airfields” with urgency following the US Pivot to Asia and the simmering disputes in the South China Sea.

Nearly 3, 60,000 personnel are deployed in the Asia-Pacific theatre under the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM), fuelling China’s anxieties. Besides, PACOM has positioned 200 ships, which include five aircraft carrier strike groups, in ocean-space, which has China and North Korea as their prime concern.

As the numbers game is debated, the Global Times, affiliated to the Communist Party of China, is reporting that the construction of China's second aircraft carrier maybe imminent. The official micro blog of the Changzhou city government in east China's Jiangsu province has posted that Jiangsu Shangshang Cable Group, a local company, has won a tender to supply cabling for "China's second aircraft carrier."

The daily points out that Jiangsu Shangshang Cable Group was a supplier for the Liaoning, the carrier commissioned in September 2012.

The Liaoning apparently has faced problems with its propulsion system, but Canada’s Kanwa Defence review is reporting that China is now developing R0110 heavy gas turbines, for use in China’s indigenous aircraft carrier. However, there is an on-going debate in China whether the home-grown carrier should be powered by a nuclear or a gas turbine engine.

Top News Today

Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.