China Unveils Third Aircraft Carrier CNS Fujian, But China Has No Fighter Jets To Fill The Deck

Photo taken on June 17, 2022 shows the launching ceremony of China's third aircraft carrier, the Fujian, in East China's Shanghai. The carrier, named after Fujian Province, was completely designed and built by the country. [Photo/Xinhua]

China launched its third aircraft carrier on Friday in Shanghai, naming it after the eastern coastal province of Fujian.

Upon its completion, the gigantic ship will displace more than 80,000 metric tons of water, making it the largest and mightiest warship any Asian nation has ever built and one of the world’s biggest naval vessels.

With a hull code of 18, the CNS Fujian is being built at China State Shipbuilding Corp’s Jiangnan Shipyard Group in Shanghai.

In the next phase, the carrier will undergo mooring and sea trials to test its overall capability and specific equipment comprehensively, the PLA Navy said.

Currently, the PLA Navy operates two carriers – CNS Liaoning AND CNS Shandong. Both have a standard displacement of around 50,000 tons and a conventional propulsion system and use a ski jump mode for launching fixed-wing aircraft.

The Liaoning was refitted from the unfinished Soviet-era carrier Varyag. It was commissioned in September 2012, becoming the PLA Navy’s first aircraft carrier.

The Shandong, the nation’s first domestically developed aircraft carrier, has a basic design similar to the Liaoning but has many improvements such as larger aircraft carrying capacity and optimized designs on the superstructure. It was unveiled in April 2017 and delivered to the PLA Navy in December 2019.

J-15 Flopping Fish

Since 2012 the J-15, a copy of the Sukhoi Su-33, has been the PLA Navy’s sole fixed-wing carrier-borne aircraft. Only 24 of these aircraft had been delivered to the PLA Navy in two batches before production was apparently halted in mid-2017 due to engine fires. Chinese media mainstream calls the J-15 “a flopping fish”.

A J-15 Flying Shark’s engine caught fire at a ground-based ski jump famility.

At least four J-15s have so far been lost, and two more have been damaged, meaning that fewer than 20 of these aircraft are believed to currently be available for the PLAN’s two carriers as well as for training. The additional aircraft will most likely be used to set up a second carrier-based air wing to be assigned to Shandong. The J-15 can carry only four air-to-air missiles and is restricted by the weight-to-thrust ratio.

After dissecting the J-15’s flaws, Sputnik News trotted out Russian military expert Vasily Kashin, who laughed and said this is why you shouldn’t copy other nations’ aircraft without permission.

J-35 Deck-based fighter jet

The Shenyang Aircraft Corporation aircraft has existed as an actual FC-31 flying platform since 2011, after which it progressed through three major design iterations and several designators (F-60/J-31/FC-31) until appearing as the J-35 aircraft fitted with two underpowered Russian-made engines initially developed for the Mikoyan MiG-29.  Unofficial sources claim the PLA Navy has named their new generation carrier-based stealth fighter the J-35, as the PLA Air Force never recognized the “FC-31”. Both FC-31 and J-35 are in their infancy and may take decades to achieve initial operational capability onboard CNS Fujian.

China unveils a prototype J-35 deck-based fighter jet with underpowered RD-33 engines.

Experts at Global Defense Corp believe that CNS Fujian could take at least a decade to achieve initial operational capability if China can produce any capable deck-based fighter jets.

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