Not a casino this time: China launches second aircraft carrier

The Chinese military officially put into service the CNS Shandong, its second aircraft carrier, on 17 December 2019.

Previously known as “Type 001A”, CNS Shandong is the first domestically built Chinese aircraft carrier by the shipyard China Shipbuilding Industry. The commissioning ceremony took place in Sanya, in the southern island province of Hainan that borders the South China Sea.

Designed on the model of the current Russian aircraft carrier “Admiral Kuznetsov”, it is similar to its sister-ship, CNS Lioaning, the first aircraft carrier of the Chinese navy. Both ships use a ski-jump (Short Take Off But Arrested Recovery) system to launch aircraft.

Despite their similarities, CNS Shandong is ten meters longer and four meters wider than its predecessor. It is able to operate up to 40 aircraft. China currently operates one carrier-capable fighter jet: the Shenyang J-15, based on the Su-33.

CNS Lioaning was laid down in 1985 as the Soviet aircraft cruiser Riga, of the Kuznetsov-class. It was acquired from Ukraine in 1998, with the official intent to turn it into a floating casino. However, in 2011, it appeared that the ship was being refitted for military operations. In 2016, it became operational.

While it has not been officially confirmed by the Chinese military, a third aircraft carrier, Type 002, is already underway. After analysis of satellite imagery provided by Airbus, the Center for Strategic and International Studies determined that this third carrier would be sensibly bigger than its predecessors and may thus sport a flat deck and a catapult launch system (CATOBAR), allowing for a heavier aircraft to be operated. Reports suggest that China could operate six carriers by 2030.

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