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Chinese Third Aircraft Carrier Launched, Catch Up with The US

China’s third aircraft carrier, the Fujian, number 18, was launched on the morning of 17 June and will now begin its sea trials.

The naming ceremony concluded with the breaking of a champagne bottle against the ship's bow, the spraying of ribbons on both sides, the sounding of the ship’s whistle, the opening of the dock doors, and the slow movement of the aircraft carrier out of the dock.

The Fujian is China’s first catapult aircraft carrier, with a flat straight, extended flight deck, electromagnetic ejection and interception devices, and a full load displacement of more than 80,000 tonnes. However, there has been no official announcement about when the Fujian will enter service.

According to CNN, the Fujian will not enter service until it has been thoroughly tested and equipped. The U.S. Department of Defense initially estimated that the Fujian would be commissioned in 2023, but now it is expected to be delayed until 2024.

China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, is an unfinished Soviet-era vessel purchased from Ukraine by Beijing in 1998 and refitted for service in 2012. After acquiring aircraft carrier construction technology and knowledge from the Liaoning, the Chinese military built the first domestic aircraft carrier, the Shandong, which will enter service in December 2019.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has vowed to build a fully modernised army by 2027 to take on US military power. However, China still lags far behind the United States regarding the number of aircraft carriers and their technology. Still, its growing naval power gradually gives it a stake in neighboring waters.

Bloomberg suggested that the launch of the Fujian is a watershed in China’s efforts to modernise its armed forces and close the military gap with the US.

Although the Fujian will be closer to the latest US aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford, it may not be as capable or as long-range as the Nimitz or Ford class nuclear-powered supercarriers.

According to Bloomberg, the Fujian will be powered by diesel engines and will be comparable in size to the US Kitty Hawk class carriers operated by the US between the 1960s and the 2000s.

The US currently has 11 aircraft carriers in service, most of which use advanced catapult systems to launch aircraft and are nuclear-powered. At the same time, the Fujian will still be powered by conventional steam propulsion, which will limit its range.

In an interview with CNN, Matthew Funaiole, a senior researcher at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, said: “China’s focus on its neighbourhood interests will not make a big difference, even though the range of the Fujian is likely to be limited.

He did, however, mention that the Fujian is the Chinese military’s “first foray into modern aircraft carriers” and that “this is a very important step forward.”

CNN also noted that China has the world’s most significant naval force as the institution coincides with rising geopolitical tensions with the US, which seeks “to strengthen ties with its allies and partners in the Asia-Pacific region to counter Beijing’s growing economic influence and military power.”

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Tags: #China #Asia #United States #Aircraft carrier


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