New Chinese aircraft carrier will be tested this year

The new Chinese aircraft carrier Fujian will undergo trials this year. With a displacement of 80,000 tons, Fujian will be the largest and most capable ship ever built by an Asian country. With Fujian, China wants to compete with the largest ships in the United States.


The Chinese type 003 carriage named Fujian is only slightly smaller than the US Nimitz and Ford class carriages. (Photo: Airbus Maxar via Google)

The news that the Fujian will go on sea trials was announced by the ship’s first officer during an interview on Chinese state television. The ship will be the third aircraft carrier in service with the Chinese Navy after Liaoning and Shandong.

Fujian was launched in Shanghai on 17 June 2022 with a grand ceremonial display at the China State Shipbuilding Corps’ Jiangnan Shipyard and is currently undergoing the final stages of construction in Shanghai.

Modern technology
The big difference is that the first two aircraft carriers have a displacement of 50,000 tons and are still based on old-fashioned Soviet technology. The fighters on these ships are also launched using a ‘ski jump’ system which uses a ramp.

The aircraft will be launched from Fujian using a modern electromagnetic catapult system, as is the case with the American ship USS Gerald R. Ford. This allows aircraft to carry more fuel and weapons. In addition, the new aircraft carrier, with a displacement of more than 80,000 tons, is simply larger and heavier than its two predecessors and has a larger cockpit, so that more aircraft can be carried.

Fujian is still, like the other Chinese shipping companies, a steamer.

Important to the Centenary goals
Fujian’s first officer went on to say that the test runs will contribute to the goals set for the modernization of China’s military when it reaches its centenary in 2027. Those goals were set for 2021 in addition to the more drastic modernization goals of 2035. In by the middle of this century, China wants to have a ‘world-class’ armed force.
This again ties in with the goals for the 100th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China in 2049. China’s leader, Xi Jinping, ultimately wants China to be a global superpower again by 2049.

China wants to be at least on an equal footing with the United States and other Western countries in military, cultural and economic terms and is therefore also developing its defense organization further. An important part of that is building a navy that can compete with the US Navy.

Trying in the spring?
Carl Schuster, a former naval captain in the US Navy, who was asked by CNN about the development of the ship, expects the first sea trials to take place in the spring.

“Looking at the technology and systems in Fujian, I think the first sea trials will take place sometime in March 2023. These will consist of basic tests with the ship’s machinery and the execution of standard maneuvers,” Schuster estimates.

The former naval officer believes the initial tests will take three to seven days and will represent the first step in a process that will take around eighteen months. That would mean the ship could eventually become operational around October 2024. Liaoning and Shandong required ten and nine sea trials respectively before being declared operational.

What will Fujian be used for?
China has not yet set an official target for which it will use its new aircraft carrier, but a role in a possible conflict with Taiwan is conceivable. The island’s self-declared independence has been a thorn in China’s side for years.

With a direct attack on Taiwan, China would be able to incur the wrath of Western countries, so it is theorized that a more subtle approach is preferable. For example, China could isolate the island by blocking it by air and sea.

China already has the options for an air blockade and with the arrival of Fujian, the maritime options in 2024 are also very large. In addition, China is working on new stealth fighters such as the J-20 and J-35. In the future, these aircraft can be launched from the aircraft carrier via the catapult system.

Tobias Author: Tobias Kappelle
Tobias has worked as a freelance journalist for Marinechips.nl since August 2020. In addition, he is mainly active in sports journalism at AD Sportwereld, Eurosport and Hockey.nl, among others. Tobias studied history and public administration and organizational science at Utrecht University and took a master’s degree in media and journalism at Erasmus University Rotterdam.


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