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China to Build the Fourth Aircraft Carrier

China to Build the Fourth Aircraft Carrier

China's PLA Navy political commissar Yuan Huazhi announced the development of the fourth aircraft carrier after Type 003 Fujian.With the ambition to build a naval aviation force to counter the U.S.’s aircraft carriers in the Pacific, China has been building new aircraft carriers after the Russian Varyag-derived Type 001 Liaoning.

As reported by The Defence Post, Yuan Huazhi stated that it would be announced soon if the carrier will be nuclear-powered. The EMALS-carrying Type 003 still doesn’t have nuclear propulsion.

When considering the direction of the Chinese aircraft carrier programme, it is possible to see a ladder-like pattern in technology. For instance, the STOBAR Type 001 converted to Liaoning from Varyag is where the PLAN meets the aircraft carrier in technical terms. The second carrier, Type 002 Shaodong, is the first locally-built carrier with many similarities with Type 001 regarding operation. The third carrier, Type 003 Fujian, is the point where China implements the EMALS catapults, which lowers the payload constraints and allows for more rapid take-off.

Thus, the fourth aircraft carrier might be the point where China implements nuclear propulsion into the line. Nuclear propulsion in the U.S. and French aircraft carriers allows for cruising without refuelling for years, and the high power output is needed for EMALS and future sensors/weapons.

In addition to the aircraft carriers, China is also working on the Type 076 LHD for multi-domain force projection capabilities. Significantly larger compared to its predecessor, Type 075, Type 076 will sport an EMALS to launch UCAVs like the stealthy GJ-11. This makes China one of the three countries known to actively work on integrating UCAVs on LHD platforms, the two others being Turkiye (Baykar’s TB3 and KIZILELMA) and the U.S. (MQ-9B STOL and Mojave).