Aircraft carrier CNS Liaoning

The PLA Navy has a carrier battle group, led by the aircraft carrier CNS Liaoning, and the unit continues to move toward gaining full operational capability, according to the Navy. The Liaoning carrier battle group completed a cross-sea, live-fire exercise at the end of last year and recently undertook a long-distance training exercise. Dozens of pilots and landing signal officers are now qualified to operate the J-15 fighter jets deployed on the carrier, the Navy said.

China's second aircraft carrier, as yet unnamed, was launched in April. Once completed, it will have a displacement of around 50,000 metric tons, a conventional propulsion system, and it will carry J-15 fighter jets and other aircraft. The ship will employ a ski jump mode to launch fixed-wing aircraft.

It is currently being fitted out, and engineers and workers will soon complete installation of interior equipment and weapons. Engineers will test and fine-tune equipment already mounted on the ship. At the same time, mooring trials will be conducted to assess the carrier's overall design, the Navy said.

At a media briefing in March, Major General Chen Zhou, a senior strategy researcher at the PLA Academy of Military Science, said the second carrier will definitely not be the end of China's aircraft carrier program.

"The number of carrier battle groups will depend on our national plans and military strategies, but we will not have as many as 12 groups like the United States plans to do because our military strategy is defensive in nature," he said.

The Navy will continue commissioning Type-052D guided-missile destroyers, and has also launched a larger destroyer, which observers regard as the first in the Type-055 class.

Military experts said the Type-052D class is the most powerful destroyer and the most capable fleet escort in service with the PLA. Some Western observers have called it a "carrier killer" because of the large number of anti-ship and land-attack cruise missiles it carries.

According to military sources, Type-052D destroyers have a full displacement of nearly 7,000 tons, and a wide range of weapons including a single-barrel 130-mm naval gun, a close-in weapon system and dozens of long-range anti-aircraft missiles and anti-ship cruise missiles. The vessel features a low radar signature, a high information level and state-of-the-art phased array radar.

The Type-055 class is a 10,000-ton destroyer. It will be equipped with new types of air defense, missile defense, anti-ship and anti-submarine weapons, the Navy said.

Yin Zhuo, director of the PLA Navy's Expert Consultation Committee, previously said each Type-055 destroyer will be able to carry more than 100 vertical launch cells capable of firing a range of missiles.

Zhang Junshe, a senior researcher at the PLA Naval Military Studies Research Institute, said compared with other Navy destroyers, the Type-055 features stronger firepower, higher information capacity and improved capabilities in terms of reconnaissance and early warning.

He added that the vessel will improve the Navy's long-range operational capability and such ships will play a major role in the country's carrier battle groups.

Cao Weidong, also a researcher at the institute, said Type-055 destroyers will make effective missile-defense platforms because they can carry and launch Chinese-made advanced missile interceptors, effectively expanding the country's missile defense network.

The Navy also has some of the world's most advanced armaments, such as the YJ-12 heavy-duty, supersonic anti-ship missile. With its ultrafast speed and long strike range, the weapon is capable of penetrating the outer defense systems of a carrier battle group, and can use sea-skimming maneuvers to avoid interception when approaching a target, according to observers.

If a 100,000-ton aircraft carrier is hit by two YJ-12s, it will basically lose all its functions, they said.

[ Editor: Liu Jiaming ]


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