MELBOURNE, Australia — China has launched its second — but its first locally built — aircraft carrier, just days after being floated off its dry dock, even as the country continues development work on other aspects of its carrier program.
The ceremony to launch the Type 001A carrier took place Wednesday morning, local time, at the China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation's shipyard at Dalian, Liaoning province, in northern China where the ship has been under construction since 2013. It also comes just days after the 68th anniversary of the founding of China's People's Liberation Army Navy, or PLAN.
The official news website of China's People's Liberation Army said Gen. Fan Changlong, a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, attended the ceremony, where he was joined by PLAN commander Vice Adm. Shen Jinlong, PLAN Political Commissar Adm. Miao Hua and Hu Wenming, the shipyard's president.
The carrier, which is rumored but not confirmed to be named Shandong, has now been moved from its dry dock to the adjacent berth, where it will undergo final construction, fitting out and builder's trials before being commissioned into the PLAN, which is expected to occur sometime in 2019.
The new carrier is based closely on the PLAN's sole operational aircraft carrier, Liaoning, with an angled flight deck and a ski jump for short takeoff but arrested recovery operations. There are some small variations in the flight deck layout of the new carrier compared to Liaoning, but an analysis of satellite photos of the ship by Defense News shows that the major dimensions remain the same, with an overall length of 1,000 feet and an angled landing section of 655 feet.
The most obvious external difference from the Liaoning would, however, be the reconfiguration of the four phased array radar panels, with those on the new ship facing diagonally outward on both sides of bridge fore and aft. It is still unclear if the new carrier will retain the Type 348 phased array radar of the Liaoning.
Get more information and analysis on China's aircraft carrier activities here.
Mike Yeo is the Asia correspondent for Defense News.