China challenges US with 2nd aircraft carrier: Know all about CNS Shandong

China likely has plans to build more aircraft carriers as it vies with the US for maritime dominance in the region.

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China has unveiled its second aircraft carrier, domestically built CNS Shandong, raising questions if Beijing is finally poised to offer stiff challenge to the US naval firepower in the Pacific. The commissioning of CNS Shandong, which was presided over by President Xi Jinping, will bolster China's military ambitions in the South China Sea.

In a ceremony held at a naval base in Sanya, Hainan province, Xi commissioned the aircraft carrier, which is named after the eastern province of Shandong. The name of the carrier was revealed only on the day of the commissioning. During the construction, it was known as Type 001A. With the arrival of CNS Shandong, China enters the elite list of counters with more than one aircraft carrier. Currently, only the United States, the United Kingdom and Italy have more than one carrier. as many as seven global powers have at least one aircraft carrier. There are 19 aircraft carriers operated by naval powers around the world.

On technical aspects, the Chinese carriers may not catch up with the US rivals. Both the Chinese carriers are using a comparatively older technology

CNS Shandong
CNS Shandong, China's first ingenuously built aircraft carrier Youtube

The inauguration of CNS Shandong marks a milestone in China's race for naval supremacy in the region. The PLA's first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, was bought from the erstwhile Soviet Union. The Soviets had sold Liaoning, which was commissioned way back in 1988, to a Chinese investor for $20 million. Apparently the Soviets did not know that the ship was sold to the PLA as the buyer had said he would convert the huge vessel into a floating casino. The carrier hit the waters in 2012.

Here are some key facts about CNS Shandong:

Where was the carrier built?

Shandong, the largest and most sophisticated naval ship ever constructed in China, was built by the Dalian Shipbuilding Industry. Its construction started in November 2013. The aircraft carrier was lowered into waters for the first time in April 2017. It conducted the first sea trial in May 2018. Dalian Shipbuilding Industry is a subsidiary of China State Shipbuilding Corp, which is the world's largest shipbuilder.

Is it mightier than Liaoning?

Chinese navy sails through Miyako Strait, conducts more drills in Western Pacific
A file photograph of China's Liaoning aircraft carrier with an accompanying fleet conducting a drill in an area of South China Sea. Reuters

During the ceremony, several J-15 fighter jets were visible on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier Chinese media reported. This shows that the new ship is superior to Liaoning, which did not field any combat aircraft in the early days, the PLA Daily said. Chinese Navy released video clips that showed fighter jets conducting takeoff and landing operations on the Shandong.

Are Chinese aircraft carriers better than those of the US?

On technical aspects, the Chinese carriers may not catch up with the US rivals. Both the Chinese carriers are using a comparatively older technology. They use the ski-jump style ramps to launch fighter jets while the US criers use the "catapult" technology. Aircraft become airborne quicker when they are launched by catapults can they can take off carrying greater quantities of fuel and ammunition, a CNN analysis said. So obviously, China has a lot of catching up to do.

The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson
The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) transits the Pacific Ocean on 31 May 2015. Wikimedia Commons /US Navy

Technical details

The Chinese Navy said CNS Shandong displaces 50,000 metric tons of water and is run on conventional rather than nuclear propulsion systems. It uses a ramp to launch J-15 fighter jets that form the Chinese carrier battle group. The carrier is also capable of deploying different types of helicopters.

What are the differences with Liaoning?

Naval technology applied in CNS Shandong is different from that used in Liaoning in some aspects. Some of the features of Shandong are a better radar system, longer landing section and a larger air command bridge. it also has more space to accommodate fighter jets, a CCTV report said.

What will be the tasks of CNS Shandong?

Shandong's missions could be different from those of Liaoning. The new carrier will run combat-ready patrols while Liaoning was mainly engaged in testing of equipment and weapons as well as training of personnel. Shandong is meant to safeguard the nation's maritime sovereignty and interests, said Xiao Ning, editor-in-chief of Weapon magazine, according to the PLA Daily.

Will China build more aircraft carriers?

China likely has plans to build more aircraft carriers as it vies with the US for maritime dominance in the region. A senior strategy researcher at the PLA Academy of Military Science has said that Shandong is definitely not the end of China's aircraft carrier programme, PLA Daily said. State-owned news agency Xinhua also said last year that a "new-generation carrier" is being constructed.

This article was first published on December 18, 2019