China is developing a large nuclear-powered aircraft carrier similar to the Nimitz-class or Ford-class aircraft carriers of the United States Navy, Associate Professor Andrew S Erickson from the Strategic Research Department at the US Naval War College wrote in his recent article for National Interest magazine.
Erickson said three models of aircraft carriers displayed at Jinshuai Model Crafts based in Zhanjiang in Guangdong province show what China’s future aircraft carriers will look like. Jinshuai Model Crafts is located close to the headquarters of the PLA Navy’s South Sea Fleet and the models it makes usually provide reliable and detailed information about the design of China’s future warships.
The first important thing to notice, Erickson wrote, is that the three models give the hull numbers of China’s first three domestically built carriers as 17, 18 and 19. The models also show that the design of the PLA Navy’s future carriers will be different to its first carrier, the Liaoning, which carries the number CV-16. The carrier was purchased from Ukraine as the hulk of the Soviet-era carrier Varyag and refitted for service. It was commissioned in 2012.
While the design of the model labeled CV-17 still retains some characteristics of the Liaoning such as its ski-jump deck, the CV-18 and CV-19 are completely different from the Russian-designed light aircraft carrier, according to Erickson. They look much more similar to the Nimitz-class or Ford-class nuclear-powered aircraft carriers of the US Navy. Described as the first domestic nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, Erickson said that both vessels are American-style ships with Chinese characteristics.
Some mistakes were found on the models, however, likely due to a lack of knowledge on the part of the model builder, Erickson said. The position of the CV-18’s blast deflectors and catapult are wrong. In an attempt to fill the space, about 70 carrier-based aircraft can be seen on the flight deck of the model. The carrier has six 30 mm single-tube artillery sets, four sets of HHQ-10 point defense missiles, and four sets of laser anti-missile systems.
Erickson said Shanghai’s Changxing island is a promising location for China to construct its own nuclear-powered carriers.
Defense expert Du Wenlong was quoted as saying that the PLA Navy will need at least three aircraft carriers to use in rotation. While one carrier is on active duty, another can carry out training exercises while the third undergoes maintenance. After three carriers are completed, the Liaoning is more likely to serve as a purely training vessel, the Global Times said.