China announces plans to build larger aircraft carriers



Beijing: Amid deepening territorial disputes with its neighbours, China said it will have more aircraft carriers, far bigger than the one that was launched last year, to put in place its plans to emerge as a major maritime power.

The People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy said yesterday that "China will have more than one aircraft carrier," Song Xue, deputy chief of staff of the PLA Navy, told foreign military attaches at a ceremony to celebrate the Navy's 64th founding anniversary in Beijing.

"The next aircraft carrier we need will be larger and carry more fighters," state-run Xinhua news agency quoted Song as saying.

However, Song said some foreign media reports that China is building new aircraft carriers in Shanghai were not accurate.

His comments in the meeting of Defence Attaches of foreign missions here displayed China's openness in revealing its plans and making no secret of its massive military expansion plans.

The remarks comes in the midst of its deepening dispute with Japan over the disputed islands, over the sovereignty of the South China Sea with a number South East Asian countries as well as border dispute with India.

The carriers whose numbers have not been specified was expected to translate China's plans to emerge as a major blue water navy to counter US Pivot to Asia as well as Indian Navy's emergence as major maritime force.

Currently, China operates one aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, which was refitted based on a Russian-made unfinished carrier and delivered to the Navy in September last year.

It is currently bracing for trials in high seas.

Zhang Zheng, the Liaoning's Captain, told foreign military attaches that his crew members have mastered independently operations of all the weapon systems on the carrier.

The Liaoning has a full displacement of more than 50,000 tonnes. The carrier's original design allows it to carry about 30 fixed-wing aircraft.

Song said the Navy hoped that the next carrier could be larger to load more aircraft.

Song also revealed that the Navy is building naval aviation force for the Liaoning, and there will be at least two aviation regiments on one carrier, including fighters, reconnaissance aircraft, anti-submarine aircraft, electronic countermeasure (ECM) planes and rotary-wing aircraft.

The Liaoning has conducted successful take-off and landing tests of its carrier-borne J-15 fighters, the main striking force of China's carrier group.

Song said the J-15 still needs a lot more trial tests before being operational on the carrier, and there will be more J-15 fighters as the Navy conducts more test flights.

The officer said China's future carrier group will be composed of carrier, destroyers, frigates, submarines and supply ship.

According to Song, more than one thousand Chinese enterprises have participated in the construction and refitting work of the Liaoning.

PTI