HONG KONG • China's first homemade aircraft carrier will be modelled on a Soviet-era vessel, with some refinements, as the country strives to strengthen its navy amid heated maritime disputes, media reported yesterday.
The new aircraft carrier, confirmed last Wednesday by the Defence Ministry, will be very close in design to the Liaoning, a Soviet-made vessel sold to China in 1998, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported.
Like the Liaoning, the new vessel will be conventionally powered, with a standard displacement of 50,000 tonnes and a ski-jump flight deck.
The SCMP, citing retired Major-General Xu Guangyu, said military assessments indicate that China is able to develop a catapult launch system.
But the top brass opted for a more dated ski-jump take-off because it will allow for a smoother transition for the J-15 fighter jet pilots and crew being trained on the Liaoning.
Mr Zhang Junshe, a researcher at the Naval Military Academic Research Institute, said China, being a latecomer, needs to build conventionally powered carriers first in order to gain experience, and then build nuclear-powered ones, reported Xinhua news agency.
He noted that, compared with the Liaoning, the new carrier will have more mature technology and performance, with better coordination between its systems and high anti-interference capacity.
While the main purpose of the Liaoning is research, testing and training, Mr Zhang said the second carrier will be able to carry out combat operations more quickly.
"Its missions will possibly include combat readiness on duty and other normal operations, including humanitarian rescue and disaster relief," he said.
He said China will need at least three aircraft carriers to meet its demands for naval patrols, training and maintenance.
The announcement of the new warship comes as China continues to lock horns with its neighbours over sovereignty disputes in the South China Sea.
Mr Zhang said China needs a stronger navy to better defend world peace and stability, noting that the scale of China's aircraft carrier development is much smaller than that of the United States and even India.