China’s Newest Aircraft Carrier Extends Capabilities With “Leapfrogged” Technology

A J-15 carrier-based fighter aircraft is taking off from Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning (Type 001).

A J-15 carrier-based fighter aircraft is taking off from Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning (Type 001).

“…a modern navy equipped with aircraft carriers gives China a power projection capability, which was previously unavailable to them.”

In June, China officially floated its third aircraft carrier, the Fujian (Type 003) carrier, which can launch a wider variety of aircraft due to its increased size and the implementation of an electromagnetic catapult launch system (EMALS).  The two excerpted articles, published by Chinese internet technology company NetEase and Indian television broadcast network Noida News 18, provide an overview on the newly unveiled carrier and possible implications of using the groundbreaking EMALS.  The articles also highlight the emphasis the Chinese place on advancing technological developments as quickly as possible.

China’s first two aircraft carriers, the Liaoning (Type 001) and Shandong (Type 002), feature a ski jump deck, which assist jets taking off from the short runway.  The launched aircraft are restricted by size, weight, and payload.  The Liaoning is capable of operating 40 fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters, while the Shandong can accommodate up to 50 J-15 fighters, an early-warning radar, and anti-submarine aircraft and various helicopters.  The Fujian is now China’s largest aircraft carrier at 80,000 tons and 318 meters.  Its size, coupled with greater capacity and the more condensed EMALS, allows it to carry more types of carrier-based aircraft than its two predecessors do.  These include the upgraded J-15, the new stealth J-35, and the recently unveiled (2020) Air Police 600—an early warning aircraft that can reportedly detect stealth aircraft from a long distance. 

Regarding the launching system, it is noteworthy that the next-step technology would have been a steam-piston driven system, which increases the launch and payload capacity from that of the ski jump.  As the NetEase authors point out, instead, China “leapfrogged” to EMALS, a technology developed by the United States.  The Chinese government, however, claims to have developed and constructed EMALS using all domestic innovation and technology.  Regardless, according to Noida News 18, China is already working on its next aircraft carrier (Type 004), which could be nuclear-powered, greatly extending the country’s long-range operational capabilities. In addition to similar observations regarding the Fujian’s technological advances, Indian observers from Noida News 18 commented that China’s aircraft carriers are not designed to be used in a conflict within the Taiwan Strait, South China Sea, or Indian Ocean region.  The article argues that China has learned from the United States over the past several decades and will most likely use carriers to coerce and punish smaller powers.  Most importantly, the authors argue, they “will help China to overcome the limits of their own geography.”


Song Zhongping,“宋忠平:实现跨越式发展的中国新型航母003 (China’s New Aircraft Carrier 003 Achieves Leapfrog Development),” NetEase (a business and technology oriented Chinese website)20 June 2022.

The Fujian is the first aircraft carrier to have an electromagnetic catapult launch systems (EMALS)…  Like the Shandong, the third aircraft carrier is completely developed and manufactured domestically.

The official displacement of the Fujian exceeds 80,000 tons, which is larger than both the Liaoning and Shandong ships…  The Fujian is also larger than America’s Kitty Hawk class, but smaller than the USS Ford, which has a full load displacement of 110,000 tons.

The Fujian has adopted so many innovative technologies, some of which are world-class.  For example, it is the first time a Chinese aircraft carrier uses EMALS…  The new carrier is able to house more types of carrier-based aircraft, such as the upgraded J-15 fighter and the new stealth J-35.  It will also carry the Air Police 600, a new type of early warning aircraft.

China developed its aircraft carriers for offshore operations and long-sea escort.

It should take another two years for the ship to become fully operational.

Suyash Desai, “What Does China’s New Aircraft Carrier Say About Its Technology and Strategy,” Noida News18 Online (Indian and English language news service based in Noida India.  International coverage provided by CNN while Indian and local news is a product of Indian Broadcast Network), 27 June 2022.

China launched its third aircraft carrier this month.  The type 003, now named Fujian, is China’s biggest, most modern and most powerful aircraft carrier.  At 80,000 tons and 318 meters, the Fujian outstrips all but America’s supercarriers, the new USS Gerald R. Ford-class…

… Fujian is reported to have electromagnetic catapult launch systems (EMALS).  Its main advantage is that it accelerates the aircraft more smoothly, putting less stress on their airframes…  Fujian helps China catch up with the US…  However, like US carries, the Fujian will not be nuclear-powered, meaning its speed, endurance, and long-ranged operational capabilities would still be limited…

…Some authoritative Chinese reports suggest that China has already started the work for building the next aircraft carrier, Type 004, which could possibly be a nuclear-powered carrier.  However, there is no concrete evidence to support this claim.  It reportedly plans to have six aircraft carriers by 2049 to be a world-class force and become a blue water navy to protect and pursue overseas interests.China’s aircraft carriers are not designed for a Taiwan reunification campaign or to have a direct role in a conflict with big powers like the US or India in the Taiwan Strait, South China Sea or Indian Ocean Region.  China is learning from the US’ use of carriers over the past several decades and is most likely to use them in coercing and punishing smaller powers in the near and far seas.  Also, a modern navy equipped with aircraft carriers gives China a power projection capability, which was previously unavailable to them.  But most importantly, the aircraft carriers will help China overcome the limits of their own geography.

Image Information:

Image: A J-15 carrier-based fighter aircraft is taking off from Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning (Type 001)
Source: Government of Japan,
Attribution: CC BY 4.0