Type 001A Shandong
The Shandong (hull 17), China's second aircraft carrier as well as its first domestically built one, was commissioned 17 December 2019 into the People's Liberation Army Navy in Sanya, South China's Hainan Province. The carrier's hull number 17, indicates that it is a training carrier, as is her sister ship 16 Liaonang. Togther, these two carriers can train thousands of crew members each year, in preparation for an enourmous enlargement of China's carrier fleet with big deck carriers, twice as large as the first pair, later in the 2020s. Chinese experts stressed China's aircraft carrier development was defensive in nature, aims to safeguard national sovereignty and would not be used to seek hegemony.
China is projected to match the American fleet of 10 big-deck carriers before the year 2029, the centenary of the foundation of the People's Republic. China's third aircraft carrier could be launched within the next two years, be combat ready by 2025 and feature an electromagnetic catapult and stealth fighter jets. The third carrier might still be powered conventionally, as China's nuclear-powered vessel technology was likely to mature by 2025 to 2030 and so not keep up with the construction speed of the third carrier.
The commissioning coincided with the anniversary of the establishment of the Qing Dynasty's Beiyang Fleet on December 17, 1888. The fleet was wiped out in the First Sino-Japanese War, which was one representation of China being invaded due to its inability to master modern military equipment. Shandong is a large costal province and hosts China's first aircraft carrier base, which could be one of the reasons for the name. The Beiyang Fleet was established in Shandong.
China had been expected to launch its first domestically built aircraft carrier on the 68th anniversary of the founding of the PLA Navy on Sunday 23 April 2017. But it was reported that tidal conditions were not conducive for a launch to mark the navy’s birthday, and the ceremony was expected to take place in the next few days. China's first homegrown aircraft carrier was floated to a dry dock 25 April 2017, signaling that its official launch was fast approaching.
China was close to completing its second aircraft carrier, which will begin service by 2020, experts said 21 February 2017. China Central Television (CCTV) reported that the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy's Type 001A class aircraft carrier's scaffold had been removed and red undercoat has been painted below the ship's waterline in Dalian, northeastern Liaoning Province, and that a launching ceremony will soon be held.
In the 30 March 2017 meeting of the Ministry of Defense at a regular press conference, a reporter asked: "The progress of domestic aircraft carrier is of much concern, and there is news that the domestic aircraft carrier will be launched on April 23. Can you confirm this?." China's Ministry of Defense spokesman said:" The domestic aircraft carrier is currently progressing well, and when to test the water, I believe will not let everyone wait!"
Photos of the first Chinese domestic aircraft carrier show it had been painted with red primer, the island had begun to install the glass and the front phased array radar and other equipment. Recent photos showed that the deck had begun to clean up, so it ws thought it would most likely in the near future be in the water. Reported speculation that the date may be the People's Liberation Army Navy foundation day that is, 23 April 2017.
"Unlike the Liaoning(Type 001), China's first aircraft carrier, a refitted ship built by Ukraine (under the former Soviet Union), the 001A is China-built, and its design, combat capability and technologies will be much more advanced," Song Zhongping, a military expert, told the Global Times.
On 31 December 2015 the Chinese defense ministry formally announced the construction of the 001A, and another spokesperson Yang Yujun said, "This carrier, with a displacement of 50,000 tons, will be the base for J-15 fighters and other types of aircraft." The design and construction of the second aircraft carrier is based on experience, research and training from the first carrier, the Liaoning, Yang added.
The US Defense Department reported in early 2009 that "Analysts in and out of government project that China will not have an operational, domestically-produced carrier and associated ships before 2015. However, changes in China's shipbuilding capability and degree of foreign assistance to the program could alter those projections. The PLA Navy is considering building multiple carriers by 2020."
The US Department of Defense reported on 06 May 2013 that "China also continues to pursue an indigenous aircraft carrier program ... and will likely build multiple aircraft carriers over the next decade. The first Chinese-built carrier will likely be operational sometime in the second half of this decade.... China will probably build several aircraft carriers over the next 15 years."
The 2016 Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China reported that "In 2015, China began construction of its first domestically produced aircraft carrier."
During the 2018 Two Sessions, Yuan Maorong, an NPC deputy from Taizhou city, East China's Zhejiang Province, suggested naming the carrier "Wei Wen", after a military general from the Three Kingdoms period (AD 184/220-280) who was the first man in history to arrive at Taiwan, according to cctv.com on March 13. Yuan said naming the carrier Wei Wen would show the historical fact of Taiwan being an integral part of China, and push the development of Cross-Straits relations.
The discussion of how the ship should be named has also been spreading in social media. Many Chinese netizens suggested simply naming the carrier "Taiwan," while others suggested naming it "Shi Lang", an admiral who recaptured Taiwan for the Qing Dynasty. "This displays the high expectations among the Chinese people over solving the Taiwan question, because they want the country to use the first domestically built aircraft carrier as a symbol to announce its determination and ability to achieve this aim, and also send a tough warning signal to the secessionists in Taiwan," Li noted.
However, the carrier is not targeting Taiwan, according to a military expert from a Beijing-based military academy who requested anonymity. He explained that if Beijing decided to use military measures to solve the Taiwan question, the PLA is fully capable of doing so without an aircraft carrier, and Type 001A was made for a greater purpose.
"The PLA Navy has regulations for naming large vessels like aircraft carriers, which generally use the names of provinces and municipalities," Song said. "Liaoning is primarily a platform for training personnel and collecting data through testing, while Type 001A is China's first carrier made for combat missions, so its name could be more special. It's impossible to name it with a person's name, for only vessels used for scientific research can use a person's name in China," said the anonymous military expert.
China's second aircraft carrier left a port outside the Dalian Shipyard on 13 May 2018 for its first sea trial, signaling that the production of this domestically built carrier was nearly complete. China's first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, which has served the navy for 13 months, underwent 10 sea trials. Some military experts suggest with the knowledge gained from the Liaoning the new aircraft carrier is likely to see smoother sea trials.
China's second aircraft carrier was transferred from dry dock into the water at a launch ceremony in Dalian shipyard of the China Shipbuilding Industry Corp. in Dalian, northeast China's Liaoning Province, at a launch ceremony, starting about 9 am April 26, 2017. The new carrier, the first domestically-built one, came after the Liaoning, a refitted former Soviet Union-made carrier that was put into commission in the Navy of the Chinese People's Liberation Army in 2012. The ceremony was attended by Fan Changlong, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, as well as leaders of the PLA Navy and China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation.
The Shandong is based in Sanya near the South China Sea, while the Liaoning is based in Qingdao, East China's Shandong Province near the East China Sea, Yellow Sea and Bohai Sea. Having one carrier in the east and another in the south will ensure fast reaction time when the presence of an aircraft carrier is needed.
The second aircraft carrier based in the south can effectively patrol the South China Sea, protect islands and reefs there and act as a strategic foothold at sea. While the Liaoning could go from the East China Sea to the Pacific Ocean and train more pilots and officers, the Shandongcould sail from the South China Sea into the Pacific Ocean and even go to the Indian Ocean. One carrier could also stay near the mainland for alert missions, while the other could sail farther away into high seas for long-range missions.
In terms of time, regular maintenance is needed for a carrier to stay combat ready. When one carrier is under maintenance or repair, the other could take over its missions so China will always have a carrier to deploy. Another new choice is to let the two carriers form a dual-carrier battle group for maximum combat capability. A dual-carrier battle group will boost China's maritime combat capability, because a moderate or more intensive regional conflict, especially in high seas, requires at least 45 carrier-based aircraft to achieve regional air and sea superiority, which is not possible with a single Chinese aircraft carrier.
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