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China ready to build more aircraft carriers

Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning. An MoD photo.

BEIJING (PTI): The Chinese state-owned firm which had equipped the country's first aircraft carrier said it is ready to build more as China looks to become a maritime power to assert its influence in the region in the midst of South China Sea disputes and the big US push into Asia-Pacific.

China State Shipbuilding Corporation, which refurbished the hull of a former Soviet Union ship into an aircraft carrier on Tuesday said it has the capability to build more "seagoing airbases".

"We must enhance our independent weapons and equipment research and production capacity to match the country's clout, and independently build our own aircraft carriers", Hu Wenming, Chairman of the company told state-run China Daily.

The company is a major designer and maker of the aeronautical support system for the carrier named as Liaoning, which was refitted from the Soviet Union's Varyag warship.

His comments followed assertions by outgoing President Hu Jintao in his political report to the just concluded Communist Party Congress that it was a key strategy to build a strong national defence commensurate with China's international standing and to meet the needs of its security and development interests. Hu spoke of China emerging as a maritime power.

China is currently locked in maritime disputes with a host of neighbours including Japan and concerned about US policy to deploy its major naval assets including aircraft carriers in Asia Pacific.

Hu Wenming, who took part in the Congress as delegate declined to say when and how many carriers his company will build. "That hinges on the central authorities," he said.

Chinese officials previously indicated that China would like to build three aircraft carriers in the coming years.

Hu Wenming suggested that the country should develop carriers using what he called catapult stroke technology on the flight deck.

Planes on the Liaoning utilise a ski-jump takeoff.

"It is very difficult for fixed-wing Air Early Warning aircraft to use a ski-jump takeoff, and on such a carrier you can only use helicopters for early warning, which actually compromises early warning," he said.

The Liaoning is more than 300 meters long and over 70 meters wide. Flight coordination at sea obviously differs fundamentally from land-based runways, Hu said.

He declined to say how many people were involved in the project to equip the carrier, but said a whole research and development institute under his company was engaged in it, and its workforce had doubled in the process.

It took about six years for researchers to develop and install sophisticated technology and key infrastructure needed for the flight deck, such as those to command the launch and recovery operations of carrier-borne aircraft, he said.

He also said his company is ready to build the vessels for the carrier formation "at any time". Such a formation is generally made up of the carrier itself, destroyers, escorts, supply vessels and submarines, he said.


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