Saturday, May 25, 2024

China’s First Super-Carrier Could Be Indian Navy’s Latest Headache

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The Fujian is China’s first indigenous aircraft carrier design.

New Delhi:

China’s first super-carrier – an 80,000 ton warship called the Fujian – has returned to the port after completing its brief sea trial. The aircraft carrier, the most advanced warship of its class built by China, represents a significant milestone in China’s military and naval capabilities.

The Fujian, or Type 003 class carrier, is China’s first indigenous aircraft carrier design and is the first to utilise an integrated propulsion system and electromagnetic catapults. Electromagnetic catapults, which replace conventional steam-powered catapults, are meant to reliably and accurately launch aircraft off the deck of the Fujian. The US Navy, still considered the world’s most technologically advanced Navy, is the only other force that has deployed this technology on its carriers.

The Fujian aircraft carrier features a new integrated propulsion system and electromagnetic catapults.

The Fujian aircraft carrier features a new integrated propulsion system and electromagnetic catapults.

The Fujian is now expected to begin trials of its carrier-borne aircraft soon which could last up to a year before the warship is declared operational in all respects.

China’s path to developing aircraft carriers is part of a sustained effort to enhance its naval capabilities and to project power, particularly in the Indo-Pacific region.

China’s first aircraft carrier, Liaoning, originally a Soviet-era vessel, was purchased from Ukraine in 1998. At the time, the carrier was incomplete and was lying unused. It was subsequently refitted and commissioned into the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) in 2012. Liaoning has primarily been used for training purposes and as a symbol of China’s growing military status.

Chinas first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, was acquired from Ukraine in 1998.

China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, was acquired from Ukraine in 1998.

The Shandong, China’s second carrier and the first one to be manufactured at home, was launched in April 2017 and entered service in December 2019. The ship, a significantly modernised variant of the Liaoning, has seen operational deployments involving the use of the Shenyang J-15 ‘Flying Shark’ fighter, a variant of the Russian-designed Sukhoi 33 fighter jet that incorporates significant Chinese modifications.

Additionally, the Chinese Navy is developing the J-35, a carrier-borne stealth fighter that is expected to be operational in the future. The J-35 is designed to operate from China’s latest aircraft carrier, the Fujian.

The Indian Navy currently operates two aircraft carriers, INS Vikramaditya and INS Vikrant. The Indian Navy has wanted a larger, more capable aircraft carrier for more than a decade, only to be rebuffed by successive governments concerned about the exorbitant cost of development, manufacture and operation.

According to reports, a carrier in the class of the Fujian would cost India $7 billion (Rs 56,000 crore) to build. The cost of new-build fighters on board could total a further $8 billion (Rs 65,920 crore).

India operates two aircraft carriers, the INS Vikramaditya (in the distance) and INS Vikrant

India operates two aircraft carriers, the INS Vikramaditya (in the distance) and INS Vikrant

For the moment, the government is considering green-lighting a smaller carrier, of the same-size as the INS Vikrant. The government is also in negotiation with Dassault of France to acquire 26 Rafale-M fighters for the Vikrant at an approximate cost of $8 billion (Rs 65,920 crore). The Rafale-M would replace older and less reliable Russian-built MiG-29K jets deployed on board the Vikrant.

As of May 2024, nine countries operate frontline aircraft carriers. These countries are the United States, China, Italy, the United Kingdom, India, Japan, France, Spain, and Russia. The United States leads the way with 11 operational carriers, significantly more than any other country.

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