Image ID 2JD9HPK China's third aircraft carrier, Fujian 18062022 CREDIT Newscom,Alamy Stock Photo.jpg
China's first homegrown aircraft carrier, with advanced aircraft launch technology (Picture: Newscom/Alamy Stock Photo).
China

How does China's new aircraft carrier stack up against the rest?

China recently celebrated the launch of its third new-generation aircraft carrier, the Fujian, at a dry dock in Shanghai.

Image ID 2JD9HPK China's third aircraft carrier, Fujian 18062022 CREDIT Newscom,Alamy Stock Photo.jpg
China's first homegrown aircraft carrier, with advanced aircraft launch technology (Picture: Newscom/Alamy Stock Photo).

Thought to rival Western carriers, China recently launched a new-generation aircraft carrier – the first such ship to be both designed and built in the country. 

Chinese state media reports said the launch of the Type 003 carrier, named Fujian, was a milestone event, as Beijing seeks to extend the range and power of its navy.

Few details are known about the Fujian, but its arrival is being seen as a major step toward Beijing's ambition of having the world’s second-largest carrier fleet.

The launch

Fujian's launch from a shipyard in Shanghai came with all the fanfare you would expect after four years of construction.

State broadcaster CCTV showed assembled navy personnel standing beneath the massive ship as water jets sprayed over its deck, multi-coloured streamers flew and colourful smoke was released.

Ridzwan Rahmat, a Singapore-based analyst with the defence intelligence company Janes called it "an important milestone for China's military-industrial complex".

China's new carrier was named after the Fujian province on the country's south-eastern coast, following a tradition of naming its first two carriers after the provinces of Liaoning and Shandong.

image taken from China's state broadcaster CCTV of Fujian launch 17062022 CREDIT Reuters.jpg
An image taken from China's state broadcaster CCTV of the Fujian's launch.

Comparisons

Navies worldwide are investing heavily in big ships. 

The US is building a fleet of Ford Class super carriers – each costing $13bn – while Britain has recently spent £8bn on two new vessels.

China's new carriers look very similar to America's, however, they have opted to use conventional power rather than nuclear, similar to Britain. 

The Fujian, the first to be designed and built entirely in China, joins the two operational carriers China already has.

America's USS Gerald R Ford entered service in 2017. It is the first of its class with plans for a further nine in the coming decade replacing the Nimitz Class on a one-for-one basis.

The Royal Navy has HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales – both of which will serve for the next 50 years.

USS Gerald R Ford conducting Full Ship Shock Trials in the Atlantic Ocean 160721 CREDIT US NAVY
USS Gerald R Ford conducted 'full ship shock trials' with live explosives to test the vessel's ability to withstand active battle conditions in last June (Picture: US Navy).

Size

According to satellite images, the Fujian is estimated at around 320m long with a displacement of 80,000 tonnes.

The newest US carriers are just a little longer at 333m and weigh 20,0000 tonnes more with a displacement of 100,000 tonnes.

The Royal Navy's two ships are the smallest at about 280m in lengthand weigh in at 65,000 tonnes.

On-board aircraft

There is, as yet, no real detail for how many jets the Fujian might carry, but there are reports China is developing a carrier version of its FC-31 stealth fighter.

The new US carriers can carry more than 75 aircraft which includes dozens of F-35C Lightnings and F/A-18 Super Hornets.

And the Royal Navy’s ships can each accommodate up to 40 aircraft, including 24 F-35B short take-off fighters.

Launch Systems

The Fujian has three catapults and is the first Chinese ship to have an electromagnetic rather than a steam-powered catapult.

America's Ford Class has the same electromagnetic technology, promising a better launch rate.

The UK carriers, meanwhile, do not use catapults – their F-35Bs use a ski jump to take off before landing vertically back on the deck.