Tag Archives: aircraft carrier

New Attack Submarines Boost PLA-Navy’s Long-Term Modernisation

chinese-093G-submarine-huludao-shipyard
THREE NEW NUCLEAR
attack submarines are being added to the PLA-Navy, according to state media, taking the country’s sub fleet to about 15 and providing more tangible evidence of the modernisation of China’s military. One report suggests the PLA-N took delivery of the vessels in late-February.

CCTV recently showed a satellite picture of the three subs docked at unidentified berths. This Bystander believes the location to be the Bohai shipyard at Huludao on the Bohai Sea. Our images, acquired from Google Maps, shows one sub in dry dock (above; the black square in the middle of the sub is its vertical missile launching tubes; vertical supersonic missile launching is the vessel’s big advance in capabilities), and two at berth (below). There is little advantage to keeping them hidden. Indeed, China stopped keeping its subs secret in 2009. It is the logistics systems for the latest subs that the rest of the world will want to get a look at.

CCTV said the vessels were Type-093Gs, a longer, faster and quieter (thus less easily detectable) version of the Type-093 nuclear subs of which six are believed to already in service. The PLA-N also has in its sub fleet three old Type-091s and four Jin-class Type-094s, which can carry ballistic missiles.

chinese-submarine-huludao-shipyard

The Type-093Gs are reportedly capable of launching the new YJ-18 supersonic anti-ship missiles. The YJ-18, now in development as a replacement for a mishmash of Soviet-era models, is equivalent in capability for maritime attacks to the Russian (land attack) cruise missile that NATO has nicknamed the ‘Sizzler’. It will be the basis for a series of supersonic and hypersonic (faster than Mach 5) missiles that could be used to attack carrier groups; these missiles fly so fast towards the end that they are difficult for anti-missile systems to intercept.

China is already testing one such hypersonic weapon, the WU-14, which can travel at Mach 10. Were it to come to a hot war between China and, say, the U.S., these missiles would be Beijing’s best bet for knocking out the carrier groups that Washington would likely use to cut China’s maritime supply lines.

The early models in the series will be for attacking ships. The missile can carry a more potent warhead than the PLA-N’s current missiles, and thus be able to penetrate the increasingly heavy armor of U.S. and Japanese warships. Later models are intended for submarine and, eventually, land attacks. The YJ-18 will have a range of 300-400 kilometres from a carrier.

While China’s first carrier, the Liaoning, is operational, it is still far short of being battle ready, mostly because of a lack of pilots trained to operate from carriers. Training more is a priority. And not just for the Liaoning. As many as six carriers are planned, according to senior PLA-N officials quoted recently by the Hong Kong Commercial Daily.

That number has been bruited before. Construction on two improved and indigenously built Liaonings is underway in China Shipbuilding Industry Corp.’s Jiangnan yards in Shanghai with plans for three indigenous nuclear-powered carriers to follow. The newspaper report may be as close to confirmation of those plans as we have had to date.

It will be those latter three carriers that will propel the PLA-N into a blue-water force to be reckoned with. The Liaoning, a refitted ex-Soviet carrier, the Varyag, is, at 58,500-tons, lightweight by carrier standards — half the size of U.S. carriers. It also launches its aircraft with a ‘ski-jump’, not a catapult. That limits the fighters that can operate from it.

The Liaoning carries helicopters and modified Shenyang J-15 fighters, but couldn’t launch the fifth-generation J-31 fighter. It is better described as an aviation-capable patrol ship than a carrier of the line. Letting the PLA-N learn the ropes of carrier operations is its main purpose.

Modern catapult launchers use electromagnetic systems that require massive amounts of energy, of the magnitude a nuclear-powered carrier would be capable of generating. China Shipbuilding Industry was tasked in 2013 with developing nuclear power technology that would be compact and safe enough to install in ships such as carrier and icebreakers, and possibly into nuclear stealth bombers.

Nuclear bombers are probably years off, but a first nuclear-powered carrier is likely within a decade. The two second-generation Liaonings due to be commissioned in 2020 are likely to be conventionally powered. It is a racing certainty that the carrier after those would be nuclear powered.

To put that in perspective, China has had nuclear-powered subs for 40 years, but that is still 15 year fewer than the U.S. In 2022, the U.S. Navy will mark the 60th anniversary of its first nuclear-powered U.S. carrier while the PLA-N may still only be getting its first into the water. What is certain though is that the PLA-N is playing determined catch-up.

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China’s First Aircraft Carrier To Head For The High Seas

China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, will make its first blue-water voyage within a year, state media report. Xinhua did not say where the Liaoning would go or how long the sailing would last, but the trip is likely to include flight-landing exercises on the high seas. Since being formally handed over to the PLA-Navy last year, the refurbished carrier has been undergoing tests and conducting training operations from its home port of Qingdao.

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China’s Navy Gets Its First Stealth Frigate

PLA-Navy Type 056 frigate
The PLA-Navy has taken delivery of the first of 20 Type 056 frigates (above). They are called stealth frigates because of their ability to evade radar detection thanks to a sleek design and some of the same technology that goes into stealth fighter jets. The ships are so narrow there is only room for a third the crew carried by the earlier 053 generation of frigates. Their size might make them a corvette more than a frigate, but the difference is one without much distinction these days. Xinhua says the vessel was handed over in Shanghai earlier this week. The video below comes from there.

The fleet will be used on escort duties, anti-submarine patrols and what are called “operations against sea targets”. While it comes with the usual disclaimer about “weaponry research and development is solely for national security and not aimed at any specific country or goal,” the stealth frigate marks another substantial step in the upgrade of China’s naval forces and their capability to project force in coastal and regional waters. Not uncoincidentally, this Bystander suspects, China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, docked in Qingdao this week, too, the first time it has berthed in a military port .

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China Conducts Maiden Flights From Aircraft Carrier

China conducted its maiden tests of take off and landings by F-15 fighter jets from the deck of its first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, during sea trials in October or November 2012.

Tick another milestone in China’s naval modernization program. It has has landed a plane on an aircraft carrier for the first time. The defense ministry has published photographs of a couple of J-15 carrier-based fighter jets taking off and landing on the Liaoning during recent sea trials. Quite how recent is unclear, as the photos, though newly published, are undated. Xinhua news agency had reported in mid-October that photographs of just such an event were in existence, though it did not publish them. The new pictures show clear blue skies and sea as smooth as glass, suggesting a day earlier in the year rather than later.

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China’s Navy Sails Its New Aircraft Carrier

It is a symbolic departure as much as anything, but China’s first aircraft carrier has sailed from its berth in Dalian for the first time formally under the PLA-Navy’s command. The vessel, a converted half-built Soviet-era carrier, the Varyag, was handed over to the Navy and renamed the Liaoning on September 25. Xinhua reports it slipped out of port on Friday evening.

Xinhua also reports that new pictures show a J-15 carrier-based fighter aircraft practicing take-off and landing on the craft, though the one that Xinhua publishes with its report was taken in May during another sea trial. We assume from this that the purpose of this voyage would be to start the serious business of training carrier pilots in real conditions.

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China’s Navy Commissions Its First Aircraft Carrier

Military officers stand onboard China's aircraft carrier "Liaoning" in Dalian, northeast China's Liaoning Province, Sept. 25, 2012. China's first aircraft carrier was delivered and commissioned to the Navy of the Chinese People's Liberation Army Tuesday after years of refitting and sea trials. (Xinhua/Zha Chunming)
There was a certain symbolism to the timing of the formal commissioning of China’s first aircraft carrier into the PLA-Navy (above, with more pictures of the ceremony at a naval base north of Dalian here). It came as Beijing is embroiled in maritime sovereignty disputes with most of its neighbours in the East and South China Seas. Carriers project the epitome of naval power, and as many officials have repeated, are “symbols of a great nation”.

It is worth remembering, however, that China’s first carrier–a refitted ex-Soviet carrier, the Varyag, now renamed the Liaoning–falls into the class of light aircraft carriers. As a “ski-jump” not “catapult” carrier, it can’t launch the most advanced fighters. It is as much an aviation-capable patrol ship as a carrier of the line. It is primarily intended for the PLA to learn the ropes of carrier operations.

At the 58,500-tons, the vessel is small by carrier standards. It is about half the size of U.S. carriers, even if still large enough to dwarf the coast guard boats and fishing vessels now increasingly plying the more sensitive disputed waters off the coasts of China and its neighbours. This year was always the intended date of its commissioning, but state media have previously reported that the carrier won’t be ready for active service until 2017, which is not to say it won’t be available for flag-waving duties before then. But it is also worth remembering that two larger and more advanced carriers are under construction in yards in Shanghai planned for launch in 2014 with a first nuclear powered carrier scheduled for launch by 2020.

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China’s First Aircraft Carrier Not Expected To Be In Service Until 2017

Varyag, China's first aircraft carrier
China’s first aircraft carrier won’t be ready to be put into active service until 2017, state media report. The reports, accompanied by a set of mix’n’match pictures mostly of the Varag at berth in Dalian, go to some length to explain that sea trials of new carriers are a lengthy business everywhere.

Late last month the carrier completed its ninth and longest sea trial to date, a 25-day sailing in the north Bohai and Yellow seas, where it was first spotted at sea. There is a set of pictures of the a vessel returning from its most recent voyage here.

While it is thought that the Varyag is fully equipped with its missiles and other armaments, further tests are needed to ensure that the various electrical systems on the vessel don’t interfere with each other. Flight crews also need considerable practice in the all-important art of taking off and landing on the carrier at sea, and particular in simulated combat conditions. The Varyag is estimated to need 30 pilots, all of which will take some time to train.

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Picture Of China’s First Aircraft Carrier At Sea

China's first aircraft carrier, the Varyag, in the Yellow Sea, December 8, 2011

The satellite picture above is the first reported sighting at sea of China’s first aircraft carrier, the Varyag. It was taken by a U.S. imaging company, Digital Globe, on December 8, and shows the vessel in the Yellow Sea some 100 kilometers south-southeast of Dalian, the port where the converted former Soviet carrier has been refitted. The carrier sailed from Dalian on November 29 to undertake its second sea trials. We have photos of it leaving port and of the first test flight of the carrier-based J-15 fighter in PLA-Navy colors that is being developed to equip China’s planned carrier fleet here.

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Pictures Of China’s First Aircraft Carrier Leaving For Its Second Sea Trial

These two pictures of China’s first aircraft carrier, the Varyag, were taken on November 29th as the vessel was leaving its berth in Dalian for its second sea trials.

The first sea trials took place in August. There are plenty of pictures of the ship’s return here.

Meanwhile, state media has published what is says are pictures of the test flight of a carrier-based J-15 fighter, though the photograph is undated. (Similar pictures of a J-15 in PLA-Navy colours were doing the rounds in April.) China has produced three prototypes of the aircraft. There has been speculation that a landing and takeoff from the carrier may have been attempted during the second sea trial but it is more likely that any such exercise would have involved helicopters in the first instance.

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Second Sea Trials For China’s First Aircraft Carrier


China’s much-watched first aircraft carrier, a refitted old Soviet carrier, the Varyag, has set out on its second sea trial, state media report. (Defense ministry statement, in Chinese.) The photo above, taken on Nov. 29, shows the carrier heading out of Dalian, where its conversion work has been done.

The Varyag’s first sea trials took place in August. The vessel has since been back in its dock in Dalian for further fitting out. It second voyage is thought to be for additional systems testing and crew training. It is unclear whether the carrier will join up with any of the annual exercises the PLA-Navy is currently conducting in the western Pacific.

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