China Plans to Build Fleet of Six Aircraft Carriers

By | Apr 21, 2017 10:53 AM EDT
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CNS Liaoning escorted by her J-15 fighters. (Photo : PLAN)

China has plans of building a fleet of six aircraft carriers -- some of them nuclear powered -- so it can consistently pierce the "First Island Chain," China's geopolitical term for a chain of islands that includes the Kuril Islands; the Japanese Archipelago; Ryukyu Islands, Taiwan, northern Philippines and Borneo.

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These aircraft carriers will enable the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) to break through the First Island Chain to achieve command of the sea.

"In the long run, China needs to develop its own aircraft carrier battle teams, with at least six aircraft carriers, maritime forces led by guided missile destroyers, as well as attack submarines," said Xu Guangyu, senior advisor to the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association.

China will also build about 10 naval bases for the six aircraft carriers. Xu said these bases can be built in friendly Pakistan, which is China's major ally in Asia. China has no other friends in Asia apart from North Korea.

"Hopefully, China could have bases in every continent, but that depends on countries which would like to cooperate with China," said Xu.

The second of these six carriers, the CNS Shandong, is close to completion while a third is building. The fourth to sixth carriers still have to be planned.

The official newspaper of the People's Liberation Army said the combat capabilities of the CNS Shandong have been enhanced. It also noted that more than 10 carrier pilots recently received their flying certificates, making China one of the few countries capable of training its own aircraft carrier pilots.

"It was a big step for China to enhance the fighting capability after its aircraft carrier completed a live-fire drill, conducting exercises in various regions and training in the western Pacific Ocean for the first time in 2016," said the PLA paper.

PLAN celebrates its 68th anniversary on April 23 and the CNS Shandong is expected to be launched during this anniversary.

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