To address increasing reliance on shipping of oil, gas and other strategic resources to China, and to protect the products it exports and its growing overseas interests, Beijing has moved from a policy of near-seas defence to ones of far-seas protection, a global oceanic presence and even expansion towards the north and south poles.
Undoubtedly, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) under Chairman Xi Jinping has enormous aspirations, perhaps best symbolised by the investment China is pouring into aircraft carriers. Quite apart from their prestige, carriers reflect China’s ambition to project power far beyond Chinese shores, in accordance with the 2015 Defence White Paper that stated “the traditional mentality that land outweighs sea must be abandoned, and great importance has to be attached to managing the seas and oceans and protecting maritime rights and interests”.
The PLAN launched its third carrier, the Type 003 Fujian, at Jiangnan Shipyard on 17 June 2022. Displacing more than 80,000 tonnes, and with a flight deck some 320m long, Fujian approaches the size of American Nimitz – and Ford-class supercarriers. The Pentagon expects Fujian to become operational next year.
Apart from its greater size compared to China’s two preceding carriers, the most notable thing about the conventionally powered Fujian is its catapult-assisted take-off but arrested recovery (CATOBAR) configuration, which utilises three electromagnetic aircraft launch systems. The PLAN has completely bypassed steam catapults.
APDR asked Dr. Su Tz-Yun, Associate Researcher and Director, Division of Defense Resources and Industries, at the Institute for National Defense and Security Research (INDSR) in Taiwan, about the Type 003: