China on Friday launched the country’s third aircraft carrier and also its second domestically developed one in Shanghai, a move experts said is a milestone for the vessel’s construction and future commissioning.
Having a displacement of more than 80,000 tons, the carrier, named Fujian, is the country’s first one equipped with electromagnetic catapults and arresting devices.
As a key landmark in the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy’s pursuit to become a blue-water navy, the third carrier is larger, more powerful and more advanced than the previous two, making it the first Chinese aircraft carrier to come close to rival its US counterparts thanks to technologies it uses like catapults, analysts said.
A launch and naming ceremony was held in the Jiangnan Shipyard, a Shanghai-based subsidiary of China State Shipbuilding Corporation Limited, at about 11 am, when the naming certificate of the vessel was given to the top officer to receive the delivery of the aircraft carrier.
Officials then cut the ribbon marking the launch of the third aircraft carrier, after which the vessel left the dock, concluding the ceremony.
Xu Qiliang, a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission, attended the ceremony.
According to the approval of the Central Military Commission, China’s third aircraft carrier is named the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy Ship Fujian and given the hull number 18.
The Fujian is China’s first fully domestically developed and constructed aircraft carrier with catapults. It has a flat, straight flight deck equipped with electromagnetic catapults and arresting devices, and has a full displacement of more than 80,000 tons.
Fujian is also the name of the eastern coastal province facing the island of Taiwan, leading to speculations from netizens that the carrier could play an important role in safeguarding China’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and development interests in the Taiwan question.
After the launch, the carrier will start mooring trials and sea trials.
The launch is a milestone for ship construction, as it indicates that the main structure of the vessel is complete, Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times.
After the launch, outfitting work will be finished, fully furbishing the ship with equipment like fuel pipes, gas pipes, electric devices and weapons systems, Song said. Since this is China’s first large aircraft carrier equipped with catapults, the outfitting works might take longer than usual to make sure everything is done properly, he said.
A number of sea trials will be carried out after the outfitting work is complete, and the aircraft carrier will hopefully be delivered to the PLA Navy in two to three years from now, Song said.