China's Third Aircraft Carrier to Use Steam Catapult to Launch Aircrafts
China's third aircraft carrier, dubbed the Type 002 vessel, will be equipped with a conventional take-off technology instead of the cutting-edge electromagnetic system.
The planned third aircraft carrier will reportedly adopt at least three conventional steam launch catapults, a source told the South China Morning Post. And this will be the first aircraft carrier to feature such launch system.
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"There are still some technical problems applying nuclear propulsion to the carrier platform, so the Type 002 will still use steam catapults," the insider said, noting that this is still a breakthrough as the other two aircraft carriers, Liaoning and the Type 001A, have ski-jump ramps. The source further noted that it would also even take a couple of years more for the Type 002 to enter service since it usually takes around two to three years to train carrier-based pilots.
China is reportedly planning to produce two Type 002 carriers; the first is slated to be launched in 2021. The carriers has a displacement of 85,000 each, making them the biggest Chinese carriers. Liaoning is only about 55,000 tons, while the Type 001A is 70,000 tons.
Rumors have circulated that the third carrier will come with an Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS), which has a resemblance with the new US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78). Instead of the conventional steam piston drive, EMALS uses a linear motor drive to launch an aircraft.
EMALS also allows a more graded acceleration, and this could give less stress on the airframe of the aircraft. Compared with the steam catapult system, EMALS is lighter and cheaper to operate.