17 June 2022

PRC Launches 3rd Carrier “Fujian”—Trace Beijing’s Deck Aviation “Long March” with The China Aircraft Carrier Bookshelf!

Li Weichao, “China Launches Third Aircraft Carrier,” Xinhua, 17 June 2022.

Photo taken on June 17, 2022 shows the launching ceremony of China’s third aircraft carrier, the Fujian, in east China’s Shanghai. The carrier, named after Fujian Province, was completely designed and built by the country. (Xinhua/Li Gang)

SHANGHAI, June 17 (Xinhua) — China launched its third aircraft carrier, the Fujian, in Shanghai on Friday. The carrier, named after Fujian Province, was completely designed and built by China.

The new carrier was put into the water at a launch ceremony that started at about 11 a.m.

Xu Qiliang, a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and vice chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), presented a naming certificate to the navy unit receiving the carrier.

Approved by the CMC, the Fujian was given the hull number 18.

It is China’s first domestically-made carrier that uses catapults. With a full-load displacement of more than 80,000 tonnes, the carrier is equipped with electromagnetic catapults and arresting devices.

The new carrier will conduct mooring tests and sea trials as scheduled.


Ryan Pickrell, China’s Naval Power Gets Big Boost with Launch of First Home-Grown Aircraft Carrier,” Daily Caller, 26 April 2017.

China’s carriers are no match for U.S. carriers, but they offer China the kind of power projection capabilities that its neighbors in Asia lack. It is a symbol of power. …

“China’s shipbuilding industry is poised to make the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) the world’s second largest navy by 2020,” argues Dr. Andrew Erickson, a renowned China expert with detailed knowledge of China’s naval developments, told the Diplomat. “If current trends continue — a combat fleet that in overall order of battle is quantitatively and even perhaps qualitatively on a par with that of the [U.S. Navy] by 2030.”

Chinese military experts see a big future for China’s aircraft carrier development program.

Chinese military expert Cao Weidong explained that China needs multiple large-scale operational platforms to mitigate those threats, stressing that China needs more than one or two carriers. The Chinese navy is moving towards nuclear-powered aircraft carriers with bigger tonnage and improved combat capabilities, Cao told CCTV.

Yin Zhuo, another Chinese military expert, said that China needs carrier battle formations in both the South China Sea and East China Sea, where China is involved in territorial disputes with multiple claimant states. …

It is unclear if China will pursue this kind of development plan, but China has indicated that it wants to build a much more robust naval force to protect its expanding interests. In addition to carriers, China has also been constructing new destroyers, cruisers, and supply ships.


Sam LaGrone, “VIDEO: China Launches First Domestic Aircraft Carrier,” USNI News, 26 April 2017.

…  China is thought to have already begun construction on its second domestic carrier – Type-002 — at the Jiangnan Changxingdao shipyard near Shanghai.

Unlike the new Type-001A and Liaoning, the new carrier is expected to field a catapult launching system allowing a wider variety of aircraft to operate from the carrier. Satellite images of the nearby Huangdicun Airbase in Liaoning Province show what appears to be electromagnetic and steam catapult launching test systems.

“Developing its own CATOBAR system, and fitting it on China’s future aircraft carriers will enable the PLAN to operate a well-rounded carrier air wing that includes force multipliers such as Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft, which tend to be heavier and use less-powerful, but more efficient engines,” wrote USNI News contributor Mike Yeo in September. …

“China wants to sail a gradually increasing number of aircraft carriers into the center of growing blue water operations. The evidence is growing in Chinese shipyards and ports across the Indian Ocean and beyond,” Andrew Erickson, a professor at the U.S. Naval War College’s China Maritime Studies Institute (CMSI) and author of a recent book on Chinese naval shipbuilding, told USNI News on Wednesday. …

Three years ago, a Chinese party official declared Beijing was set to build four carriers in a state report, but the government quickly deleted the instance.

A four-carrier force would mimic traditional carrier deployment patterns in which there are three carriers in maintenance or workups for every carrier deployed.

“This is likely just the beginning of China’s fledgling naval aviation capabilities as their maritime forces build towards a large well-balanced fleet capable of protecting and projecting Chinese interests in the Pacific and potentially around the world,” Eric Wertheim, author of U.S. Naval Institute’s Combat Fleets, told USNI News on Wednesday. …


Chris Buckley, “China Launches Its First Aircraft Carrier Built at Home,” New York Times, 25 April 2017.

BEIJING — China’s first domestically built aircraft carrier slipped into the sea for the first time on Wednesday, … a milestone in President Xi Jinping’s drive to extend China’s military reach far beyond its shores.

Senior military and government officials watched as a champagne bottle was smashed on the bow and as the 1,033-foot gray hull of the carrier eased into the water at Dalian… Chinese military news media reported. …

It is far from ready for operations, but the launch “signified a major stage of progress of our country’s indigenous design and construction of aircraft carriers,” a news bulletin from the People’s Liberation Army said. It said the carrier would undergo more testing and fitting of equipment before trials in the water. …

The Chinese Navy is at the heart of Mr. Xi’s military plans. In addition to aircraft carriers, China has been building other vessels that could support and shield them on missions, said Andrew S. Erickson, a professor at the United States Naval War College and editor of a new book on Chinese naval shipbuilding.

“China is building a blue-water navy for the long term: not just the carriers themselves but the auxiliary ships to supply them and the warships to protect them,” he said in an email. Other ships built or under construction include a new type of supply vessel, as well as four cruisers suited for escorting a carrier, Mr. Erickson said. ….


Jeremy Page, “China Launches First Home Built Aircraft Carrier, Boosting Naval Power,” Wall Street Journal, 26 April 2017.

Beijing’s second carrier will undergo two years of trials before becoming operational

BEIJING—China launched its second aircraft carrier—and the first one entirely home-built—taking another stride in its quest for a world-class navy that can protect Chinese economic and security interests far from its shores.

The new carrier, festooned in red flags and ribbons, was transferred from dry dock into the water in a shipyard ceremony in the northeastern port city of Dalian on Wednesday…. About two years of sea trials are expected before the still unnamed ship becomes fully operational, Chinese and Western military experts say. …

“China wants to put an emerging trickle of aircraft carriers at the center of basic blue water operations: dazzling with naval diplomacy, strengthening influence across strategic sea lanes, and responding to emergencies that don’t require fighting other great powers,” said Andrew Erickson, an expert on China’s military at the U.S. Naval War College.

He said that other evidence of China’s long term plans included construction of a new class of supply vessels modeled on leading U.S. counterparts, a new class of cruisers designed in part to protect carriers, and its first overseas naval facility in the east African nation of Djibouti.

China “appears to be priming other ports to support its growing seaward presence,” Mr. Erickson said. …

The new carrier is conventionally-powered, like the Liaoning, and uses the same ski-jump runway to launch J-15 fighter jets….

But China’s new carrier is designed to carry more ammunition, fuel and aircraft and is likely to be used for actual operations including sea lane patrols and humanitarian missions, according to Chinese officers and military experts.


Ronald O’Rourke, China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities—Background and Issues for Congress (Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, 29 March 2017), RL33153.

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Aircraft Carriers and Carrier-Based Aircraft59

China has begun operating its first aircraft carrier—the Liaoning, a refurbished ex-Ukrainian aircraft carrier that entered service in 2012. China is well along with the construction of a second carrier (China’s first indigenously built aircraft carrier)—reportedly called Shandong—and may have begun construction on a third carrier. Observers speculate China may eventually field a force of four to six aircraft carriers.60

First Carrier: Liaoning (Type 001)

On September 25, 2012, China commissioned into service its first aircraft carrier—the Liaoning or Type 001 design (Figure 5), a refurbished ex-Ukrainian aircraft carrier, previously named Varyag, that China purchased from Ukraine in 1998 as an unfinished ship.61

The Liaoning is conventionally powered, has an estimated full load displacement of almost 60,000 tons,62 and might accommodate an eventual air wing of 30 or more aircraft, including fixed-wing airplanes and helicopters. A September 7, 2014, press report, citing an August 28, 2014, edition of the Chinese-language Shanghai Morning Post, stated that the Liaoning’s air wingmay consist of 24 J-15 fighters, 6 anti-submarine warfare helicopters, 4 airborne early warning


59 China, according to one set of observers, initiated studies on possible aircraft carrier options in the 1990s, and approved a formal aircraft carrier program in 2004. (Andrew S. Erickson and Gabriel B. Collins, “The Calm Before the Storm,” FP [Foreign Policy] National Security, September 26, 2012.) Another observer dates Chinese activities in support of an eventual aircraft carrier program back to the 1980s. (Torbjorg Hemmingsen, “PLAN For Action: New Dawn for Chinese Naval Aviation,” Jane’s Navy International, June 2012: 12-17.) See also Andrew Scobell, Michael McMahon, and Cortez A. Cooper III, “China’s Aircraft Carrier Program,” Naval War College Review, Autumn 2015, pp. 65-79.

60 See, for example, Jamie Seidel, “China Is About to Launch Its Second Aircraft Carrier, 001A,” News.com.au, March 6, 2017.

61 The Soviet Union began work on the Varyag in a shipyard in Ukraine, which at the time was part of the Soviet Union. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, construction work on the ship stopped and the unfinished ship became the property of Ukraine. For a discussion, see James Holmes, “The Long Strange Trip of China’s First Aircraft Carrier,” Foreign Policy, February 3, 2015; Chen Chu-chun and Staff Reporter, “Man Who Bought Varyag From Ukraine Plied Officials With Liquor,” Want China Times, January 22, 2015.

62 IHS Jane’s Fighting Ships 2016-2017 lists a full load displacement of 59,439 tons for the ship.

p. 19

helicopters, and 2 rescue helicopters, for a total of 36 aircraft.63 The Liaoning lacks aircraft catapults and instead launches fixed-wing airplanes off the ship’s bow using an inclined “ski ramp.”

Figure 5. Aircraft Carrier Liaoning (Type 001)

Source: “Highlights of Liaoning Carrier’s One-Year Service,” China Daily, September 26, 2013, accessed September 30, 2013, at http://www.china.org.cn/china/2013-09/26/content_30142217.htm. This picture shows the ship during a sea trial in October 2012.

By comparison, a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier is nuclear powered (giving it greater cruising endurance than a conventionally powered ship), has a full load displacement of about 100,000 tons, can accommodate an air wing of 60 or more aircraft, including fixed-wing aircraft and some helicopters, and launches its fixed-wing aircraft over both the ship’s bow and its angled deck using catapults, which can give those aircraft a range/payload capability greater than that of aircraft launched with a ski ramp. The Liaoning, like a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, lands fixed-wing aircraft using arresting wires on its angled deck. Some observers have referred to the Liaoning as China’s “starter” carrier.64 DOD states that

Even when fully operational, LIAONING will not enable long-range power projection similar to U.S. NIMITZ-class carriers. LIAONING’s smaller size limits the number of aircraft it can embark, while the ski-jump configuration limits aircraft fuel and ordnance loads.65


63 Wendell Minnick, “Chinese Carrier’s Purported Air Wing Deemed Plausible But Limited,” Defense News (www.defensenews.com), September 7, 2014.

64 See, for example, 2015 ONI Report, p. 23, and “China Plans New Generation of Carriers as Sea Disputes Grow,” Bloomberg News, April 24, 2013.

65 2016 DOD CMSD, p. 28.

p. 20

ONI states that

LIAONING is quite different from the U.S. Navy’s NIMITZ-class carriers. First, since LIAONING is smaller, it will carry far fewer aircraft in comparison to a U.S.-style carrier air wing. Additionally, the LIAONING’s ski-jump configuration significantly restricts aircraft fuel and ordnance loads. Consequently, the aircraft it launches have more a limited flight radius and combat power. Finally, China does not yet possess specialized supporting aircraft such as the E-2C Hawkeye.66

The PLA Navy is currently learning to operate aircraft from the ship. DOD states that “in 2015, the PLAN’s first aircraft carrier, LIAONING, certified its first cohort of domestically trained J-15 operational pilots. The air wing is expected to deploy on the carrier in 2016.”67 ONI states that “full integration of a carrier air regiment remains several years in the future, but remarkable progress has been made already,”68 and that “it will take several years before Chinese carrier-based air regiments are operational.”69 A September 2, 2015, press report states that “China’s aircraft carrier Liaoning can carry at least 20 fixed-wing carrier-based J-15 fighter jets and the ratio between the pilots and planes is about 1.5:1. So China needs to train more pilots for the future aircraft carrier, said a military expert recently.”70 In November 2016, the ship was reportedly described as being ready for combat.71 A January 7, 2017, blog post states:

It seems to most PLAN watchers that PLAN has been able to [develop] carrier aviation operations reasonably quickly since CV-16 [i.e., Liaoning] was first commissioned. In the 4 years since that time, we have seen more intensive take-off and landings from CV-16. CV-16 was even declared fully operational and combat ready earlier this year. It seemed a little premature at the time, since how would one quantify the move from training to combat ready. This most recent deployment does seem to resemble a combat ready carrier operation. First of all, we saw more aircraft on deck than at any time before. There were pictures showing 13 J-15s and 1 Z-18 [helicopter] on deck at the same time. I am sure more aircraft were in the hangar at the time. There were also pictures showing 7 helicopters and multiple J-15s at the same time. That’s definitely something [the] Russian Navy is not capable of carrying out at the moment. Secondly, the J-15s appeared to have been taking off and landing in very quick succession based on the still photos that we saw. There were 2 J-15s set up in take off location with more J-15 looked ready to be moved over after each takeoff. We have yet to see night time operation photos of J-15, but this reportedly have also taken place in South China Sea. After that, the next big hurdle for J-15 operations would be taking off and landing in bad weather and high sea state conditions. What they have achieved thus far in terms of flight operation intensity at different times of day is something they didn’t even train on land before PLAAF’s modernization efforts. And finally, we have seen a variety of helicopters and J-15s set up for different missions. J-15s have been shown carrying AAMs and AShMs [anti-ship missiles] for air superiority roles and anti-shipping roles. An EW [electronic warfare] variant of [the] J-15 was developed and flew last year. We have also seen J-15 with [an] UPAZ-1A refueling pod under [its] centerline to allow for buddy to buddy refueling.


66 2015 ONI Report, p. 23.

67 2016 DOD CMSD, pp. 27-28.

68 2015 ONI Report, p. 13.

69 2015 ONI Report, p. 23.

70 “Over 20 J-15 Fighters Can Land on the Liaoning Aircraft Carrier,” People’s Daily Online, September 7, 2015.

71 Associated Press, “China Says Aircraft Carrier Now Ready for Combat,” Washington Post, November 15, 2016; Jesse Johnson, “China Says Its First Aircraft Carrier Is Now ‘Combat Ready,’” Japan Times, November 15, 2016.

p. 21

While this is not ideal, J-15s have already shown more multi-role capabilities than [the] Su-33 showed with [the Russian] Adm K[uznetsov] carrier.72

Second Carrier: Shandong (Type 001A)

China is well along with the construction of its second aircraft carrier—China’s first indigenously built carrier (Figure 6 and Figure 7). China officially confirmed the ship’s construction in December 2015.73 Reportedly to be named Shandong, for the Chinese province, and also referred to as the Type 001A design, the ship reportedly may be launched (that is, put into the water for the final stages of construction) in 2017, complete construction and begin sea trials in 2019, and enter service in 2020.74 A March 29, 2017, press report states that China is

due to launch its first home-built aircraft carrier, the Type 001A, on April 23, [2017] according to Chinese media reports and military sources, as part of its strengthened naval forces. April 23 marks the 68th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army Navy and President Xi Jinping may attend the launch ceremony, one of the sources added.75

Shandong is believed to be broadly similar to Liaoning—like Liaoning, it will use a ski ramp rather than catapults to launch its aircraft—but it reportedly will also incorporate certain design

improvements over Liaoning. A March 6, 2017, press report states:

Project 001A does appear to have many revised features over its Soviet predecessor. “Its design, combat capability and technologies will be much more advanced,” Chinese military analyst Song Zhongping told the Global Times outlet of the People’s Daily. “One key difference is the design will be more ‘humanised,’ which means all personnel on the carrier will enjoy a more comfortable and modern environment.”

But improvements also appear to extend to technical matters.

Its flight deck arrangement has been changed, as have the sponsons — projections from the sides of the ship holding weapons, sensors and other equipment. This, combined with an enlarged hangar, is said to allow 001A to carry between six and eight more fighter jets than the 24 Liaoning can stow.


72 Feng, “Naval Aviation,” China Air and Naval Power, January 7, 2017. See also K.J.M. Varma, “China Developing Naval Aviation Wing to Operate from Aircraft [Carrier],” Live Mint, August 11, 2016.

73 Sam LaGrone, “Officials Confirm Construction of First Domestic Chinese Aircraft Carrier,” USNI News, January 4, 2016; Zhang Tao, “2nd Aircraft Carrier To Have Military Focus,” China Daily, January 4, 2016; Chris Buckley, “China Says It is Building Its Second Aircraft Carrier,” New York Times, December 31, 2015. See also Sean O’Connor and James Hardy, “Latest Imagery Suggests Chinese Aircraft Carrier Is Under Construction,” IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly,

November 18, 2015: 8; Jeffrey Lin and P.W. Singer, “China’s First Homemade Carrier Moves Forward,” Popular Science, October 27, 2015; Nanae Kurashige, “China Building First of Two Domestic Aircraft Carriers,” Asahi Shimbun, October 21, 2015; Brendan McGarry, “Satellite Images May Show China’s First Domestic Aircraft Carrier,” Defense Tech, October 1, 2015; Ankit Panda, “Is This China’s First Homemade Aircraft Carrier?” The Diplomat, October 2, 2015; Sam LaGrone, “China’s Domestic Aircraft Carrier Almost Certainly Under Construction,” USNI News, September 30, 2015; J.R. Wu, “China Building Two Aircraft Carriers: Taiwan Defense Ministry Report,” Reuters, September 3, 2015; Bradley Perrett, “China Building Third Carrier, Taiwanese Report Says,” Aerospace Daily & Defense Report, September 16, 2015: 4.

74 See, for example, “China’s New Aircraft Carrier to Be Launched Early 2017 And to Enter Service by 2020, Experts Say,” People’s Daily Online, February 15, 2017; Sean O’Connor, “China’s First Indigenous Aircraft Carrier Nearing Completion,” IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, August 17, 2016.

75 Minnie Chan, “China Building Navy’s Biggest Amphibious Assault Vessel, Sources Say,” South China Morning Post, March 29, 2017.

p. 22

Figure 6. Shandong (Type 001A) Under Construction

Picture dated November 30, 2016

Source: Photo captioned “The new aircraft carrier, Project 001A, takes shape in China’s Dalian shipyard. It is almost due to be launched. Picture taken on Nov. 30, 2016. Picture: DigitalGlobe via Google EarthSource: Supplied,” published as part of Jamie Seidel, “China Is About to Launch Its Second Aircraft Carrier, 001A,” News.com.au, March 6, 2017.

The control-tower superstructure also appears to have been modified to accommodate new radars and masts. It was lifted into place on the new hull late last year.

“The Type 001A has learned from US carriers to focus on how to make aircraft on board more functional.” Beijing-based military analyst Li Jie recently told the South China Morning Post.

While the ship may appear visually complete, it is yet to be fitted out. This means it is largely empty, with equipment such as radios and radars — even kitchen appliances and crew bunks — still needing to be installed.

“It will take about one to two years to carry out functional debugging of its devices, weapons and equipment,” Li Jie told the People’s Daily. “The new aircraft carrier can begin sea trials by early 2019.”76


76 Jamie Seidel, “China Is About to Launch Its Second Aircraft Carrier, 001A,” News.com.au, March 6, 2017. See also Yang Sheng, “2nd Carrier Almost Complete,” Global Times, February 21, 2017; Zhong Nan, “Liftoff for Heavy-Duty Gas Turbines, Breakthrough Made for Use in Aircraft Carriers,” China Daily, February 15, 2017; Mike Yeo, “Analysis: Chinese Aircraft Carrier Program Progressing Substantially Into the New Year,” Defense News, January 31, 2017; Judy Hua and Benjamin Kang Lim, “China’s Second Aircraft Carrier ‘Takes Shape:’ Media,” Reuters, January 31, 2017; “China’s Second Aircraft Carrier Features Smaller Island to Maximize Carrying Capacity: Military Expert,” People’s Daily Online, September 8, 2016; Ankit Panda, “China’s First Homemade Carrier Could Take to the Seas (continued…)

p. 23

Figure 7. Shandong (Type 001A) Under Construction

Picture dated December 2016

Source: Photo captioned “China’s first domestically made aircraft carrier under construction in Dalian in early December 2016. Picture via Kyodo Source: Supplied, published as part of Jamie Seidel, “China Is About to Launch Its Second Aircraft Carrier, 001A,” News.com.au, March 6, 2017.


Showing off the Hardware: China’s First Aircraft-Carrier Bares its Teeth,” The Economist, 19 January 2017.

For Admiral Wu Shengli, the commander of China’s navy since 2006, it must have been a sweet swansong to mark his imminent retirement. In November China announced that its first and only aircraft-carrier, the Liaoning, was combat ready. On December 24th its navy duly dispatched an impressive-looking carrier battle-group with three escorting destroyers, a couple of frigates, a corvette and a refuelling ship. It sailed from the northern port of Qingdao down through the Miyako Strait, past Taiwan and into the South China Sea. …

China’s deployment of an aircraft-carrier is not a military game-changer. But it is a conspicuous symbol of the country’s ambitions as a maritime and global power. The Liaoning has been a crucial building block for the navy in its evolution from a coastal defence force into what is now a modern navy that China uses to assert its (contested) maritime claims in the East and South China Seas. Within the next 25 years China expects its navy to become a powerful blue-water fleet that can guard China’s sea lanes of communication against any aggressor, push the US Navy beyond the “second island chain” far out into the Pacific… and protect the country’s far-flung commercial interests.

To that end, probably around 2004, China made up its mind that it must have aircraft-carriers. A second, indigenously designed one, based on the Liaoning but with the latest radar and space for more aircraft, is nearing completion at the northern port of Dalian. Many analysts believe that a third such vessel, larger and more complex, is under construction in Shanghai. Andrew Erickson of the US Naval War College says Admiral Wu adopted a “crawl, walk, run” approach to developing a carrier capability, recognising the difficulties involved. Carrier operations are inherently dangerous—America lost 8,500 aircrew in the 40 years to 1988 on its way to reaching what Mr Erickson calls its current “gold standard” of carrier expertise. …

It is not clear how many carriers China plans to build. As a rule of thumb, you need three to be certain of having one at sea all the time. Mr Erickson says that some analysts in China have been suggesting a fleet as large as six. Mr Singer thinks it is possible that China’s carriers will one day match the capability of American ones. Mr Erickson says that while China can copy a lot, without combat experience and “tribal knowledge” passed from one crew to another, it will find it hard to attain that level.

China, ironically, has done more than any other country to sow doubts about whether carriers are worth all the effort and expense, by developing shore-based anti-ship ballistic missiles, such as the DF-21D and DF-26, known as “carrier killers”. Submarines are less vulnerable, but highly visible ships bristling with weaponry are still badges of pride for aspiring great powers like China. As in America, the view in China that carriers and status go together will be hard to change.


Andrew S. Erickson, “How Does China’s First Aircraft Carrier Stack Up?” interview for China Power Project, Center for Strategic and International Studies, 20 April 2016.

Republished via RealClearDefense.

My Key Quotations:

“Already with China’s so-called starter carrier, Liaoning, there is significant potential in the near future to take it overseas for some basic naval diplomacy . . . and this will already have tremendous symbolic and psychological effects.”

“The problem here for China is that deck aviation is really not so much about the ship that supports everything . . . it’s really the complex system of systems of aviation operations operating off the carrier. That’s the key value of the carrier. That’s the key to the carrier’s ability to project power in the form of the ability to conduct actual strikes. And that’s where it’s very hard to get anywhere close to the U.S.-type gold standard.”

Related Multimedia Report:

The entry of China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, into service with the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) attracted considerable attention from both the Chinese press and military observers around the world. For some, the Liaoning was a symbol of China’s global power; for others, it represented a significant first step toward a more muscular and assertive Chinese navy.

Originally built as a “heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser” for the Soviet Navy, the ship was laid down as the Riga and renamed the Varyag in 1990. A Chinese travel agency purchased the unfinished hull in 1998, and three years later the ship was towed from the Ukraine to China, where it underwent extensive modernization of its hull, radar, and electronics systems. After years of refits, the Liaoning was commissioned into the PLAN in September 2012 as a training ship unassigned to any of the Navy’s three major fleets. Two months after the ship was commissioned, the PLAN conducted its first carrier-based takeoff and landings. Although the Chinese have made significant progress in developing their carrier program, it will be several years before a carrier air regiment is fully integrated into the PLAN. Significant questions about the Liaoning’s capabilities and future prospects remain, the most important of which may be what the Liaoning means for the rise of China as a global power. …

Further Reading:

Here are selected minutes from the interview:

Andrew Erickson: How does China’s first Aircraft Carrier Stack Up?

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Andrew S. Erickson and Capt. Christopher P. Carlson, USNR (Ret.), “Sustained Support: the PLAN Evolves its Expeditionary Logistics Strategy,” Jane’s Navy International, 9 March 2016.


As China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy seeks to support sustained operations at distance, Andrew Erickson and Christopher Carlson discuss its strategy and tools for supporting this new international presence

China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has stepped out onto the international scene in recent years with sustained deployments of counter-piracy escort task groups to the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden. These deployments, numbering 22 and counting since 26 December 2008, have enabled the PLAN to sustain presence around the Horn of Africa and even deploy onwards into the Mediterranean Sea and beyond. China is now looking to bolster this strategic presence in both scope and scale by investing in supply ships, using Chinese commercial shipping lines, and exploiting its emerging access to commercial ports around the world as it seeks to provide logistics support to deployed naval vessels.

China has never had a sustained overseas presence or foreign basing footprint. Yet it is building a fleet that will enable the PLAN to deploy not only at high intensity in China’s immediate periphery (‘Near Seas’, including the Yellow, East, and South China seas), but also with gradually increasing tempo and regularity throughout the Asia-Pacific region and the Indian Ocean (‘Far Seas’ operations). This ongoing effort, if Beijing seeks for it to become more continuous in nature, will require greater power projection capabilities, as well as enhanced logistics support, and maybe even a long-term presence on foreign soil.

Drawing on the US Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) traditional definition of power projection (as employed in Joint Publication 1-02, Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, as amended through 2013) – to rapidly and effectively deploy and sustain forces – the foremost means of China’s power projection in both respects lies in its navy and in the PLA Air Force (PLAAF) and PLAN air forces, and in their ability to operate at distance over time. Today, as the necessary force structure to support Chinese objectives vis-à-vis the Near Seas has largely been achieved and China’s shipbuilding and aviation industries have demonstrated an ability to produce advanced ships and aircraft, an effort is under way to progressively increase the numbers of some of the more capable platforms that could be used for Far Seas operations. These include area air-defence destroyers and frigates, replenishment vessels, and fighter aircraft – the last of which will need aircraft carriers or foreign bases to fly from. As the US Navy (USN) knows only too well, expanding bluewater presence and doing more things in more places at once requires a larger, better-supported fleet. … … …


For further background on Chinese aircraft carrier development, see also: