The Chinese Navy’s newest aircraft carrier was launched at the Jiangnan shipyard in Shanghai on June 17 after weeks of preparations and speculation on its launch date.
With this milestone, China is coming closer to having an aircraft carrier that could be considered a “super carrier,” apparently similar in capability to the Nimitz- and Ford-class carriers operated by the United States.
Type 003, also referred to as Fujian, was launched after construction on the ship started as early as 2015 – the exact date is not known. Fujian is believed to be an evolution of the first two aircraft carriers, the Liaoning and Shandong, which are basically iterations of the Soviet-designed Admiral Kuznetsov carrier currently in service with the Russian Navy.
It should be noted that Type 003 incorporates a number of new technologies that will distinguish it from its predecessors.
One of the most important new capabilities on Type 003 are the three electromagnetic catapults (known as EMALS in the US) to launch fighter jets and other aircraft. Type 001 and Type 002 rely on ski ramps to launch fighters, which limits their maximum take-off weight and has effect on armament and range. The US Ford-class is the only other carrier to feature EMALS technology, with France’s future PANG aircraft carrier being a second candidate.
Type 003 is also expected to field a new generation air wing consisting of navalized FC-31/J-35 stealth fighters and KJ-600 airborne early warning and control aircraft, with both types bearing resemblance to the US Navy’s F-35C and E-2 Hawkeye platforms.
While official information is scarce, analysts estimate the Type 003’s length at around 1,043 feet (317m), roughly 50 feet shy of the US Navy Ford-class carrier.
With this size, the carrier will be capable of embarking anywhere between 50 and close to 70 aircraft.