China launches the Fujian, its largest and most advanced aircraft carrier

China on Friday launched its third aircraft carrier, the Fujian, a domestically designed and built vessel that marks a major step forward in China's naval capabilities. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI
China on Friday launched its third aircraft carrier, the Fujian, a domestically designed and built vessel that marks a major step forward in China's naval capabilities. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

June 17 (UPI) -- China launched its third and most advanced aircraft carrier on Friday, state media reported, a move that will help Beijing in its efforts to project military power around the region.

The carrier, called Fujian, was launched from Jiangnan Shipyard in Shanghai after a naming and ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday morning, Xinhua News Agency reported.


The Fujian has a full-load displacement of more than 80,000 tons and is China's first domestically designed and built aircraft carrier, Xinhua said.

It is also the first to use an electromagnetic catapult-assisted launch system -- a technological advancement that moves it closer in capability to Western carriers, analysts say.

"The new ship much more closely resembles U.S. carrier designs," Nick Childs and Douglas Barrie of the International Institute for Strategic Studies think tank wrote in a blog last week.


The carrier's size and catapult system will allow it to launch more types of planes, from fighter jets to airborne early warning and control aircraft, increasing its range and combat effectiveness.

China's first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, was a Soviet-era ship purchased from Ukraine in 1998 and commissioned in 2012. The Shandong, built domestically but based on the same technology as the older model, entered service in late 2019.

The Fujian does not appear to "quite match the capability of its U.S. counterparts," Childs and Barrie wrote, as it has three catapults as opposed to four on U.S. vessels and two aircraft lifts compared to three or four.

"Nevertheless, it will represent a further step-change in the long-range power-projection capability of the People's Liberation Army Navy over and above the potential offered by the first two carriers," they said.

The new carrier still needs to be tested and outfitted before entering service, a process likely to take at least until 2024, according to a March report from the U.S. Congressional Research Service.

China's navy is already the largest force in the world, with some 355 ships and submarines, according to the United States. However, the U.S. Navy still far outpaces China with 11 nuclear aircraft carriers.


The Pentagon says Beijing's goal is to expand its reach into "blue water" operations farther away from home shores.

The Chinese navy "continues to develop into a global force, gradually extending its operational reach beyond East Asia into a sustained ability to operate at increasingly longer ranges," the Department of Defense said in a report to Congress last year.

"In particular, the PRC's aircraft carriers and planned follow-on carriers, once operational, will extend air defense coverage beyond the range of coastal and shipboard missile systems and will enable task group operations at increasingly longer ranges," the report added.

China has grown increasingly assertive in the waters and airspace of the Indo-Pacific region and claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea -- a contention that an international tribune in The Hague rejected in 2016.

Beijing has also recently become more vocal about its claims to the Taiwan Strait, with a foreign ministry spokesman saying earlier this week that China has "sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction" over the waterway.

Last week, China and Cambodia broke ground on the expansion of a naval base on the Gulf of Thailand, a project that has been a source of concern for Western allies over Beijing's intention to establish a permanent military presence there.


The United States has responded by ramping up joint naval exercises with allies in the region and sailing warships through China-claimed international waters on freedom of navigation exercises.

The U.S. Navy will kick off the Rim of the Pacific exercise at the end of this month -- a five-week drill involving 26 nations, 170 aircraft and more than 25,000 personnel, without China's participation.

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