Chinese aircraft carriers will soon displace the US Navy in the oceans. Russia remains quietly envious and trying to learn.
The Chinese edition of the South China Morning Post, evaluating the results of sea trials of the new, second in a row, domestic aircraft carrier, concludes that local shipbuilders have already overcome the apprenticeship period and embarked on an independent and very broad road. However, it should be recognized that the development of their second aircraft carrier took an intermediate position between apprenticeship and independence. Here is the third aircraft carrier of China, which is already under construction, will undoubtedly be purely Chinese.
In the publication of the South China Morning Post, a new aircraft carrier, which has not yet received a name and designated as “Project 001A,” is compared in the “Liaolin”.
Liaolin is practically the Soviet heavy aircraft carrier cruiser of Project 1143.5 Krechet. Almost the same as Admiral Kuznetsov. This ship, called “Varangian”, in an unfinished state in the 90s was looming in Ukraine at the Black Sea Shipbuilding Plant in Nikolaev. In 1998, it was sold to China for $ 20 million, ostensibly to convert it into a floating entertainment center. At the same time, Kiev handed over to the buyer all the documentation for the warship. As a result, the failed Soviet Varyag nevertheless became a full-fledged aircraft carrier, “Liaolinem.”
At the same time, Liaolin plays a supporting role in the Chinese fleet. It is used as a training aircraft carrier, which allows the Chinese military to master new techniques for operating both carrier-based aircraft and the specific equipment of an aircraft carrier.
The Liaolin power plant, the composition and armament of self-defense, the mechanics of launching and receiving aircraft, navigation equipment – all this is not much different from what is used today in the Russian Admiral Kuznetsov. Except that the number of “Chinese” aircraft is smaller — only 24. This is predetermined by the fact that heavy J-15s, which are built in the image of the Russian Su-33, are used as carrier-based fighters. At Kuznetsovo, a significant number of lighter, and therefore more compact MiG-29Ks are used. At the same time, the Liaolin helicopter group is quite representative – 6 AWACS helicopters, 6 anti-submarine helicopters and 2 search and rescue rotary-wing aircraft.
The second aircraft carrier of the PLA Navy (Project 001A) is already more spacious than its Soviet predecessor, but not by much. The difference in the total displacement of the order is 5 thousand tons. The take-off deck became longer by reducing the size of the “island” – the deck superstructure of the ship. It turned out – “their” 315 meters against “our” 304 meters.
They managed to increase the aviation group by one and a half times, bringing the number of the same J-15 fighters to 36. This was due to the expansion of under-deck hangars for aircraft. For this, the Chinese designers either abandoned some systems that were considered redundant, or reduced the size of the complexes.
But there is nothing supernatural in the benefits gained. Since the Soviet aircraft carriers of the Krechet project were designed almost half a century ago. Over the past time, shipbuilding technology has gone far ahead around the world.
This Chinese aircraft carrier uses a modern radar with an active phased array antenna. Self-defense missiles are used for self-defense – this area of military equipment in China is well developed. But, strangely enough, at the same time, the combat potential of the aircraft carrier’s self-defense is reduced in comparison with both Liaolin and Admiral Kuznetsov. There are short-range air defense systems HQ-10 and 11-barrel anti-aircraft artillery system. To prevent submarine attacks, a jet bomb is used. There is also an electronic warfare complex. Well, and, of course, if necessary, carrier-based fighter jets can be used to repel attacks.
And it’s all. And no matter how it seems to us that the aircraft carrier Project 001A is defenseless when meeting with a serious adversary, but the Chinese naval strategists think differently.
Why should an aircraft carrier, which is intended, first of all, for delivering missile and bomb strikes against ground targets, be loaded with additional functions? Indeed, for their implementation, it will be necessary to sacrifice the areas and volumes of the aircraft carrier.
However, the aircraft carrier should be protected primarily by its guard ships. But they are capable of effectively combating air raids, missile and torpedo attacks, with submarines – with everything that threatens the safety of an aircraft carrier.
China now has enough resources to form powerful aircraft carrier strike groups, in which destroyers of projects 052C and 052D can be used as guarding ships. There are already 16 of them in the Chinese Navy. And 13 more are currently being built, breaking all kinds of records for the pace of production in shipyards. From the bookmark to the launching of each large enough and technically complex impact destroyer, only one to two years pass. By the way, for the full cycle from the laying of the second aircraft carrier to its launching, just fantastic three and a half years passed for today’s Russia.
It is also necessary to say that liquid fuel boilers and steam turbines of our own design and production were installed on Project 001A.
This aircraft carrier continues to undergo tests, during which completion work is carried out. It is expected that he will be fully operational in a year or two.
Meanwhile, a third aircraft carrier, Project 002A, is already being built at Dalian shipyards. This is a completely Chinese development. 522 Chinese companies took part in the design of the future ship. Moreover, the vast majority of them – 441 – are civilian, and not defense firms. This indicates the widespread development of aircraft carrier technologies throughout the country’s industry.
The power plant on Project 002A will remain the same, steam turbine. But instead of a springboard, a catapult will appear. Beijing, as a rule, does not spread too much about the features of the armament being created. When the novelty is ready and tested, the “world community” is confronted with a fact. Therefore, regarding the catapult, there are two versions: either it is steam or electromagnetic. But in any case, this will increase the take-off weight of deck aircraft, take them on board more weapons and fuel. The catapult will be two.
Project 002A is expected to be launched in 2021. It will have a displacement of about 85 thousand tons.
However, China does not intend to stop there. The construction of the aircraft carrier Project 003A has already been planned, which could be a worthy response to American shipbuilders. There is very little data on this ship. But it is known that a nuclear reactor will be installed in it as a power plant. And the displacement will approach 100 thousand tons.
According to various sources, China intends to have from four to six aircraft carriers as part of the Navy in the mid-2020s. Four will be for sure. Up to six of them can grow by the end of the next decade. Two conclusions follow from this.
Firstly, soon the Americans will have to make a lot of room not only in the eastern seas, but also in the Pacific Ocean.
Secondly, Russian shipbuilders are slowly but surely losing the technology of building aircraft carriers. Actually, it’s not even construction, but repair. Repair of our only aircraft carrier began in Murmansk in 2017 at the 82nd shipyard. During the repair, the floating dock PD-50 drowned. Only it, and located in the Far East PD-41, can accommodate the “Admiral Kuznetsov.”
The Russian ship has severe damage to the hull as a result of a fall on the deck of a construction crane. The screws are removed, and therefore it must be docked. Nowhere. It was decided to extend the dry dock at the 35th shipyard. But lengthening takes more than a year.
“Kuznetsov” has long been standing at the wall without much hope. Waiting. However, the authorities say that this will not affect the previously scheduled terms for repair and modernization. Who knows.