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China’s New Power Play: Third Aircraft Carrier Hits the Seas

Daniel Kim Views  

Xinhua News Agency

China’s third aircraft carrier, the Fujian, embarked on its maiden voyage on the 1st. After several more test voyages, China plans to field the Fujian within a year.

According to Xinhua News Agency and other sources, the Fujian departed from the Jiangnan Shipyard in Shanghai around 8 a.m. local time. Since its launch in June 2022, the Fujian has undergone mooring and power tests. Through this test voyage, the carrier will check the reliability and stability of its propulsion and electrical systems.

The Fujian is the first injection-type aircraft carrier that China has designed and built itself, with a displacement of about 80,000 tons. Unlike the ski-jump navalized aircraft takeoff method of the first carrier, the Liaoning, and the second carrier, the Shandong, it has adopted an electromagnetic catapult (an injection machine that shoots a navalized aircraft from the deck of the carrier), which can launch navalized aircraft more frequently. It is estimated that there will be no navalized aircraft takeoff and landing training during this voyage, as no aircraft are visible on the deck of the Fujian in photos and videos released by Chinese state-run media. Before the test voyage, maritime traffic control measures were imposed on ships due to military activities in the Yangtze River Estuary, where the shipyard is located, from the day until the 9th.

The test voyage takes up to a year and is the last hurdle before commissioning. The existing Liaoning and Shandong each conducted 10 and 9 test voyages before committing and signing. The Gerald R. Ford, the latest nuclear-powered aircraft carrier of the United States, launched in 2013, was commissioned in 2017 and first deployed in 2022. Military commentator Song Zhongping told the South China Morning Post (SCMP) in Hong Kong, “If the initial voyage goes smoothly, the Fujian will enter the next stage of test commissioning within about a year,” and “Continuous tests, including navalized aircraft takeoff using a catapult, will be conducted during this period.”

The Taiwan Ministry of Defense expressed concern that Fujian could threaten Taiwan during a cross-strait (China-Taiwan) conflict. Fujian is taken from Fujian Province in China, which faces Taiwan. The first test voyage of the Fujian drew attention as it took place amid escalating territorial disputes between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea. The day before, Chinese coast guard ships attacked two Philippine coast guard ships with water cannons near Scarborough Shoal (Chinese name Huangyan Island), an area of territorial dispute in the South China Sea, damaging one of them. China reportedly plans to build at least four carrier battle groups by 2030, creating the world’s second-largest oceanic navy after the United States, and secure AIX aircraft carriers by 2035.

Daniel Kim
content@viewusglobal.com

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