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China's newest aircraft carrier was spotted with aircraft mock-ups hinting at what its future air wing could look like

, 04/18/24

New images posted to social media show China's third and newest aircraft carrier hosting aircraft mock-ups.

It's a notable step before the Fujian's upcoming sea trials, showing what its future air wing might look like.

The Fujian is a large, modern ship expected to be a major upgrade to China's naval capabilities.

China's newest aircraft carrier appears to be sporting mock-ups of warplanes, according to new images posted to social media by a long-time China watcher.

It's a major step for the Fujian, as the People's Liberation Army Navy looks to put its largest,
most advanced carrier through sea trials and push it closer to being ready for operations.

Images of the Fujian, also identified as Type 003, docked in Shanghai were posted on X this week. On Tuesday, Andreas Rupprecht, a China aviation observer and researcher, also shared the images, discussing their significance. The Fujian's mock-ups were
first reported by The War Zone.

Closer examination of the flight deck revealed that the Fujian is currently hosting five mock-ups: a KJ-600 airborne early warning and control aircraft, two fourth-generation J-15 carrier-based fighters, a fifth-generation J-35 fighter that is still in some stage of development, and a JL-10J advanced jet trainer and light combat aircraft.

The mock-ups appear to simulate where the aircraft would be on the carrier's deck. The pictures also show the Fujian's catapult system, designed to launch aircraft much like the US Navy's aircraft carriers. The Fujian is China's first carrier to
feature this technology, as previous carriers have launched aircraft with ski jumps, upward ramps at the end of the deck. China's two other carriers, the Liaoning and Shandong, both feature ski jumps.

Back in January, Chinese state media showed aerial footage of the Fujian featuring three catapult tracks and an aircraft mock-up. Catapult launch systems are
much more effective than ski jumps, easing the strain of takeoff on the aircraft and allowing for the launch of larger fixed-wing planes with heavier payloads and more fuel.

The Chinese carrier relies on conventional power, as opposed to nuclear like US carriers, and steam turbines, but the ship's catapults are electromagnetic, like those on the US Navy's new Ford-class aircraft carriers.

The Fujian's catapults are a
notable jump in technology. The Department of Defense said in 2019 in its annual China military power report that the carrier's "design will enable it to support additional fighter aircraft, fixed-wing early-warning aircraft, and more rapid flight operations."

Before the carrier's launch, experts said that the ship would "
significantly upgrade China's naval capabilities." These features allow the Chinese navy to tap the full potential of the heavy J-15, and launch assets like early warning planes for greater situational awareness in combat.

CHINESE AIRCRAFT CARRIER, JIANGNAN SHIPYARDS, CHINA, JUNE 18, 2022: Maxar satellite imagery close up view of CV 18 Fujian Aircraft Carrier, Shanghai, China.Satellite image (c) 2022 Maxar Technologies (請至原網頁參看照片)

The new images of the Fujian come as the aircraft carrier, the Chinese PLAN's third and by far most advanced, is expected to head out on its first sea trials this year. Previous satellite images have documented
extensive progress on the Fujian.

The Fujian is a
major improvement in naval capability for China. Named after China's closest province to Taiwan, the carrier officially launched in June 2022. It began construction in 2018. It is still a conventionally powered carrier, but observers suspect the PLAN will develop nuclear-powered carriers in the future.

The Fujian is larger than its predecessors — likely the size of the US' old Kitty Hawk-class carriers, Matthew P. Funaiole, Joseph S. Bermudez Jr., and Brian Hart
wrote for the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank in June 2021.

"When the Type 003 eventually enters service, it will be a formidable addition to China's navy and allow it to more effectively project power into the Indian and Pacific Oceans," they said at the time.


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China’s new supercarrier Fujian is at sea. Soon it will be a very different world

, 05/03/24

Chinese aircraft carrier Fujian leaves harbour for initial sea trials, May 1, 2024. The ship boasts electromagnetic catapults and will receive a fully capable fifth generation air wing - Pu Haiyang/Xinhua via AP 請至原網頁觀看照片

On Wednesday morning China’s third aircraft carrier, the Fujian, left the Jiangnan shipyard in Shanghai for her initial sea trials – and Beijing’s journey towards world dominance took another big step forward.

It won’t be all that long before the Fujian completes trials and gets her first aircraft. The learning curve for the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) will be steep: the new ship is China’s first catapult carrier, and a big step up from the PLAN’s previous ships, Liaoning and Shandong. But one of these fine days the Fujian will have a complement of tailhook J-15B fighters (late fourth generation, derived from the Russian ‘Flanker’) and – almost more importantly – KJ-600 radar planes. Not so very long after that she will start getting carrier-capable J-35 fifth-generation stealth fighters. China already has a profusion of powerful escort warships, supply vessels and submarines ready to form a strike group around the Fujian.

British F-35B Lightning jump jets prepare to depart carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth and return to their base ashore, 17 March, 2024. Eight jets were embarked in the ship for Exercise Steadfast Defender: Britain has, so far, never been able to spare more. British carriers have no catapults and cannot operate fully capable warplanes - AS1 Amber Mayall RAF/UK MOD © Crown copyright 2024More 請至原網頁觀看照片

Once the PLAN has learned how to use her, the Fujian will be more than a match for a British carrier, or the single French one. She will only be a little less powerful than one of the US Navy’s mighty supercarriers.

The implications of this are huge. Seventy per cent of the world is salt water. Almost all of the human race lives within range of aircraft launched from a carrier in the nearest sea or ocean. The vast majority of world trade moves by ship, especially bulk commodities like iron ore.

At the moment, no matter where across the aqueous globe one may find oneself, the most significant naval force is nearly always the nearest US Navy carrier strike group. On its own, that US carrier group is capable of defeating most national navies and air forces. It dominates the sea and the sky, and can project hard power many hundreds of miles inland. It can remain present for months on end without any land-based support or consent from the local region, fighting hard or just poised for action. This is true blue-water naval capability. Despite many claims to the contrary, it has not been rendered obsolete by ballistic or even hypersonic missiles.

As a result, with certain exceptions, it’s an American world run by America’s rules. Americans being essentially rather decent, and most of us adequately happy with the situation, we call this “the rules-based international order”, but it is what it is – the Pax Americana.

There is, of course, an emerging axis of opposition to this. Russia, China and Iran make no secret of the fact that they don’t like the world the way it is. India appears to be slipping into this camp: certainly to the extent of snapping up cheap Russian oil, and thereby bankrolling Putin’s atrocities in Ukraine.

China to overtake America’s naval fleetsNumber of navy battle force ships by year (every 5 years from 2000 to 2300) 請至原網頁觀看統計圖

These malign actors extend their tentacles around the globe. Wagner Group operatives are active in Africa and other places. Iran, as is well known, has its proxies in Gaza, Lebanon and Yemen. Chinese money, often lent under the Belt and Road Initiative, has extended its influence worldwide. Last month deals were signed for $15bn of finance, mostly Chinese, which is expected to finally get the giant Simandou iron ore project in Guinea moving. New and massive supplies of iron ore will apparently begin to ship from West Africa before the end of 2025.

China buys over 70 per cent of all seaborne iron ore, and at the moment it is heavily dependent on Australian supplies – supplies which would probably cease, in the event of China invading Taiwan. In just a few years, perhaps, this dependency will be lessened. The government of Guinea will probably not be overly concerned about Taiwan. One of the rules of the rules-based order is that nobody is allowed to interfere with freedom of navigation on the high seas, so China will probably be able to get its ore even having invaded Taiwan.

The ore will be turned into steel, and steel will be turned into ships. The next carrier to follow the Fujian is already building, and this one will probably be fully the equal of a US vessel. Beijing plans to have six carriers by 2035.

More and more in future, no matter where you may be in the world, the nearest carrier strike group may be Chinese, not American. At first this will influence thinking and military realities in places like the Gulf – China has already found itself in naval control there for a spell recently. Then, perhaps, the Torres Strait north of Australia. Soon enough there may be a Chinese carrier group nearby anywhere in the Pacific, the Mediterranean, the Atlantic and from time to time the English Channel and the North Sea.

This is blue water carrier power. It can reach almost anywhere.

It’s going to be a very different world.

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