All the Reasons the World Should Fear China’s Aircraft Carriers
China’s first home-built aircraft carrier will soon be completed in the shipyards at Dalian. This vessel, which has yet to receive a name, will spend two years being fit with equipment before it is ready to join its sister carrier the Liaoning in operational service. Both vessels are derived from the Soviet-era Kutznetsov-class carriers—the Liaoning is actually rebuilt from one—and as such, commentators are already tearing into them for their obvious shortcomings compared to America’s nuclear-powered supercarriers.
The new three-hundred-meter-long Type 001A is slightly larger than the Liaoning and is estimated to carry a few more J-15 Flying Shark jet fighters, perhaps up to around thirty. By contrast, U.S. carrier air wings today typically count sixty-four aircraft. Unlike the Soviet original, neither Chinese carrier is meant to double as a heavy cruiser, and as such lack the heavy missile armament of the Russian Navy’s Admiral Kuznetsov. Both the Russian and Chinese vessels lack catapult-assisted takeoff and barrier-assisted recovery (CATOBAR) for the embarked jet fighters, and instead rely on a “ski jump”–style curved ramp at the end of the deck. This drastically limits the maximum takeoff weight of the aircraft on board, a problem worsened by the insufficient thrust produced by the J-15’s engines, limiting it to carrying four thousand pounds of weapons while carrying a maximum fuel load. Neither do the carriers carry tanker aircraft that can easily extend the J-15’s range.
written by Sebastien Roblin
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