People's Liberation Army Navy : News & DIscussions


Staff member
Nov 30, 2017
How does China’s first aircraft carrier stack up?

The entry of China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, into service with the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) attracted considerable attention from both the Chinese press and military observers around the world. For some, the Liaoning was a symbol of China’s global power; for others, it represented a significant first step toward a more muscular and assertive Chinese navy.

Originally built as a “heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser” for the Soviet Navy, the ship was laid down as the Riga and renamed the Varyag in 1990. A Chinese travel agency purchased the unfinished hull in 1998, and three years later the ship was towed from the Ukraine to China, where it underwent extensive modernization of its hull, radar, and electronics systems. After years of refits, the Liaoning was commissioned into the PLAN in September 2012 as a training ship unassigned to any of the Navy’s three major fleets. Two months after the ship was commissioned, the PLAN conducted its first carrier-based takeoff and landings.

Although it might be several years before a carrier air regiment is fully integrated into the PLAN, it was reported in November 2016 that the Liaoning is now combat ready. Most recently in mid-December 2016, China staged the first live-fire drills involving the Liaoning. The Chinese have made significant progress in developing their carrier program, raising significant questions about the Liaoning’s capabilities and what these capabilities mean for the rise of China as a global power.

Breaking: Five years after commissioning the Liaoning, China launched its second carrier – the Type 001A – on April 26, 2017. For more information seeour analysis.

A 3D look at the Liaoning

How is the Liaoning different than other countries’ carriers?
The Liaoning differs from the aircraft carriers of other countries in both size and capability. Although its overall capability is hindered by its comparatively inefficient power plant and underpowered aircraft-launching system, the Liaoning represents an important step in advancing China’s ability to project naval power.

When one considers the respective capabilities of aircraft carriers, tonnage and deck-side size are important indicators for the amount of stores, munitions, and aircraft a carrier can bring to a fight. The Liaoning is by no means a small ship, but it is far from the largest or most capable carrier in the Asia-Pacific. The Liaoning displaces roughly 60,000 tons — over 30,000 tons more than the Japanese helicopter destroyer Izumo — and is nearly 60 meters longer. The Liaoning also boasts a size advantage over the Soviet-built Indian carrier Vikramaditya, with a deck 20 meters longer and weighing approximately 15,000 tons more.

Already with China’s so-called starter carrier, Liaoning, there is significant potential in the near future to take it overseas for some basic naval diplomacy . . . and this will already have tremendous symbolic and psychological effects.​
The Liaoning’s size falls well below the U.S. Nimitz-class carrier USS Ronald Reagancurrently stationed with the U.S. Seventh Fleet in Japan, the latter being over 60 percent heavier and 30 meters longer. The Ronald Reagan weighs 97,000 tons fully loaded and spans 333 meters long, far outsizing the Liaoning. The numbers bear out the fact that the Liaoning is neither a lightweight nor a supercarrier like the USS Ronald Reagan.

The Liaoning’s otherwise middleweight size belies its limited capabilities. Higher speed means faster time to target and improved ability to outrun potential threats, but the Liaoning’s steam turbine power plant limits its top speed. Notably, the Soviet power plant upon which its propulsion is likely based suffered from poor design and maintenance and may limit the Liaoning to a typical speed of around 20 knots.1

These figures are on par with the Indian Vikramaditya, but likely well below the 30-plus-knot top speed of the nuclear-powered USS Ronald Reagan. Nimitz-class aircraft carriers generate considerably more power from their nuclear reactors and only require one midlife refueling during their approximately 50-year service life.

How does the Liaoning’s air wing compare to the naval air arms of other countries?
The Liaoning’s air wing represents a significant leap in air capability for the PLAN, but its inherent capability is limited much like the carrier itself. The aircraft aboard the Liaoningare capable and advanced, but remain restricted primarily by the ship’s aircraft-launching system and relatively insufficient amount of personnel training.

While the Liaoning’s air wing of 24 Shenyang J-15 multirole fighters is larger and more capable than the antisubmarine helicopters embarked aboard the Japanese Izumo, it falls well short of Ronald Reagan’s over 55 fixed-wing aircraft.2 The fixed-wing aircraft aboard the Liaoning, although advanced, are limited in both range and endurance. The J-15 aircraft are Chinese-modified variants of the Russian fourth-generation Sukhoi Su-33. Fourth-generation fighters boast digital flight avionics and advanced radars that represent a significant improvement over the analog systems of third-generation aircraft, but lack the low-observable stealth technology of fifth-generation fighter aircraft like the American F-35C.

A Conversation with Andrew Erickson

Advanced equipment notwithstanding, the J-15 is limited in range and payload by the Liaoning’s lack of an aircraft catapult. The Liaoning’s aircraft-launching system relies upon a ski jump-style deck instead of the steam catapults used by the United States and France, forcing the aircraft to expend considerable internal fuel during takeoff and thereby severely curtailing its payload. For instance, analysts estimate that the maximum takeoff weight for a J-15 from the Liaoning would be limited to approximately 62,000 pounds.3 By comparison, the USS Ronald Reagan can launch an aircraft with a maximum takeoff weight of 100,000 pounds.4 It has recently been confirmed that China is building a second carrier that will be built entirely with Chinese designs and technology. China’s second carrier will also use a ski jump for takeoff.

The Liaoning’s shortcomings are not unique to the PLAN—the Indian Vikramaditya’s Russian-made fourth-generation MiG-29K fighters face similar takeoff and range restrictions owing to Vikramaditya’s similar lack of an aircraft catapult. Though carrier operators can bypass the inherent tradeoff between carrying internal fuel and weapons on the aircraft using midair refueling, the practice remains difficult to execute, and the PLAN’s refueling capabilities are not yet fully developed.

Hardware performance aside, the Liaoning’s air wing is also hindered by comparatively less personnel training and experience than other countries. Chinese carrier pilots only began training on the ship in November 2012 and in 2015 the PLAN certified its first air wing of domestically trained J-15 pilots. According to the DOD, China is expected to deploy the air wing in 2016. Nevertheless, the proficiency of Liaoning’s pilots, commanders, and support staff remains unclear. Conventional fixed-wing carrier aviation is risky and dangerous: reducing the accident rate of U.S. Navy and Marine Corps jet aircraft to the same level as the land-based U.S. Air Force took almost 40 years and cost some 12,000 aircraft and the lives of 8,500 personnel. Although the Chinese have the benefit of learning from the experience of other countries, how the Liaoning’s air wing would actually perform under more demanding operational conditions at sea remains to be seen.

A Conversation with Andrew Erickson (Uncut Interview)
The problem here for China is that deck aviation is really not so much about the ship that supports everything . . . it’s really the complex system of systems of aviation operations operating off the carrier. That’s the key value of the carrier. That’s the key to the carrier’s ability to project power in the form of the ability to conduct actual strikes. And that’s where it’s very hard to get anywhere close to the U.S.-type gold standard.​
What kinds of missions might the Liaoning perform in the region and around the globe?
The physical and operational limitations of the Liaoning and its associated personnel and equipment indicate that the Liaoning might be best suited for regional missions short of high-intensity conflict. As the PLAN improves its capabilities, future missions could take the Liaoning and its accompanying sailors, fleet escorts, and aircraft farther from China’s periphery.

The Liaoning’s lack of an aircraft catapult, inefficient power plant, and the relative inexperience of its aviators and support team do not augur well for sustained high-intensity combat operations—even within waters close to the Chinese Mainland, where the Liaoning could expect support from land-based aircraft and radars. Accordingly, Chinese strategists advocate using the Liaoning for regional missions—including humanitarian aid and disaster relief (HADR), training exercises with other nations, showing the flag, and asserting Chinese territorial claims in the South China Sea—for which the Liaoning appears better suited.5 Furthermore, the Liaoning has considerable utility as a tool of naval diplomacy—providing helicopter lift for HADR missions and engaging in multinational training exercises will signal to other countries that China is a responsible rising power. Such efforts would complement China’s growing commitment to multilateral initiatives, such as UN peacekeeping efforts.

Explore the Liaoning Aircraft Carrier

Liaoning Aircraft Carrier by CSIS - 3D model

As the PLAN improves its combined arms capabilities and the Liaoning’s personnel become proficient in higher-tempo operations, the Liaoning’s repertoire could expand to include fleet air defense and maritime and land strike further afield from Chinese waters. These missions would require enhanced personnel as well as greatly improved situational awareness, communications, and logistical support far from current Chinese bases—assets that the PLAN may not yet possess in sufficient quantity or quality.

In sum, global combat missions remain outside of the Liaoning’s reach given its current operational status, and the status and number of the Liaoning’s potential fleet escorts.Chinese planners may not even have such ambitions in mind. On the other hand, less intensive missions such as noncombatant evacuation, maritime peacekeeping, and maritime antiterrorism provide good training opportunities and will become increasingly feasible for the PLAN in the future.

While the Liaoning’s possible mission set remains unclear, the prestige and attention conferred upon the ship during its construction, subsequent fitting-out, and deployment indicate that Beijing considers the Liaoning a symbol of China’s great-power status. Regardless of the Liaoning’s future abilities, the ship commands a degree of political utility as a tool of naval diplomacy through various operations, regional and global.
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What do we know (so far) about China’s second aircraft carrier?

Five years after commissioning its first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, China launched its second carrier – the Type 001A – on April 26, 2017. Unlike its Soviet-built predecessor, the Type 001A is China’s first domestically built carrier. Both carriers are similar in size and use a STOBAR (Short Take-Off But Arrested Recovery) system for the launch and recovery of aircraft. Although similar to the Liaoning, the Type 001A features some notable enhancements and represents an important step in China’s developing aircraft carrier program.

Key Facts
  • The control tower island of the Type 001A is approximately 10 percent smaller than that of the Liaoning.
  • It displaces roughly 65,000 – 70,000 tons, a few thousand more tons than the Liaoning.
  • It features the advanced Type 346 S-band AESA radar system.
  • Its airwing is expected to be slightly larger than that of the Liaoning, featuring around 8 additional aircraft.
  • The Type 001A may have an internal arrangement that is better optimized than the Liaoning’s.
  • It is expected to be commissioned around 2020.
Comparing the Type 001A and the Liaoning
Outlines derived from satellite photos demonstrate the similarities between the carriers.

Key Characteristics of the Type 001A

  • Informative
Reactions: _Anonymous_
PLAN in the Baltic Sea. Their deployment was supposed to be a show of force. A show of Chinese power and projection, even in Europe.

"Shark bait" we called them.





KLC-7 AEW radar's PV at Zhuhai Airshow showed a carrier borne AEW aircraft platform.
  • Informative
Reactions: R!cK
China Flight Tests New Submarine-Launched Missile

China carried out a flight test of a new submarine-launched ballistic missile last month that will carry multiple nuclear warheads capable of targeting most of the United States, according to American defense officials.

The launch in late November was the first time the Chinese military flight tested the Julong-3, or JL-3 missile that will be deployed with the next generation of ballistic missile submarines, said officials familiar with the test who said it appeared successful. Julong is Chinese for Big Wave.

The test was closely monitored by U.S. intelligence agencies that detected the launch with missile warning satellites.

No additional details of the flight test could be learned. Pentagon spokesmen declined to comment. "The Pentagon will not comment on the intelligence related to Chinese missile tests," said Lt. Col. Chris Logan, one of the spokesmen.

China's missile force announced, without elaborating, that five missile flight tests were conducted between Nov. 20 and 23.

Also, the Liaoning Maritime Safety Administration announced a sea closure zone for "military exercises" in the area surrounding the location near Dalian, China, where the new missile is being developed. The closure took place Nov. 22.

The flight test is a significant milestone for the Chinese strategic nuclear forces buildup—the most lethal component of Beijing's large-scale military modernization program.

In June, Chinese leader Xi Jinping visited a submarine base and announced that nuclear submarines are the country's key weapons systems and being upgraded rapidly.

"As a nation's ultimate instrument, submarines shall see great developments," Xi said. "Our seaborne nuclear forces need to advance by leaps and bounds. We pin our hopes of development and advancement on your era so that our navy and our submarine forces shall have a rapid rise."

Disclosure of the flight test followed internet reports last year that China deployed a Type-032 auxiliary submarine that is the likely test bed for JL-3 launches.

Private sector China analysts who examined photos of the Type-032, now located at a port on the Bohai Sea in northeast China, say the submarine's tower contains missile launch tubes that appear to have been enlarged for JL-3 tests.

The Type-032 was used in the past for tests of the shorter-range JL-2 missile, a variant of the DF-31 land-based missile.


Type 032

"The extent and full nature of the work conducted is unclear but the imagery is consistent with a modification to the ballistic-missile launch tube or tubes contained within the sail," wrote Joseph Dempsey and Henry Boyd in the Military Balance Blog of the International Institute of Strategic Studies. "Logically, this would suggest plans for the integration of a larger—or at least taller—new ejection system and SLBM."

Dempsey and Boyd stated in August 2017 that the missile testing submarine was moved in February 2017 from its homeport in Xiaopingdao to Dalian Liaoning shipyard, which in the past was the location of China's submarine missile development programs.

The modification of the Type-032 "indicates progress towards a long-expected follow-on SLBM design, potentially designated ‘JL-3,'" they said.

A report that same month in the China state-run Keji Ribao, a publication of the State Science and Technology Commission, stated that the existence of JL-3 had not been confirmed by Chinese authorities.

The report stated that Chinese military experts believe the solid-fueled JL-3 will use technologies from the new DF-41 land-based intercontinental missile, and that it will be comparable to the Navy's Trident II D-5 and new Russian Bulava submarine-launched missiles.

"With wide applications of new materials and technologies, the development [of submarine-launched missiles] is accelerating," the report quoted Chinese military commentator Wang Qiang as saying.

The JL-3 will utilize advanced precision guidance technology with anti-jamming capabilities. Its technologies also will include what Wang described as a "photonic-crystal optic-fiber gyroscope" and other guidance know-how described as "terminal boost, stellar guidance, scene matching guidance."

Additionally, the JL-3 will be built with missile defense-penetrating features such as a variable trajectory, a radar-evading stealth warhead, and fast burning rocket motors that seek to reduce the heat signature that is used by U.S. warning satellites to track and target missiles.

Another feature will be advanced water-exit technology that will rely on sensors that optimize interference during underwater ejections from launch tubes.

Rick Fisher, a China military analyst with the International Assessment and Strategy Center, said the JL-3 when fully operation will have a range of between 7,456 miles and 8,700 miles—enough to reach most of the United States from underwater launch areas near Chinese coasts.

"China's testing of the JL-3 SLBM affirms Department of Defense reports starting in 2016 that state a next-generation nuclear ballistic missile submarine (SSBN), usually called the Type-096, will emerge in the early to mid-2020s," said Fisher.

"It is also expected to carry up to 10 multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRV) warheads," he said. "But what is not known is the number of missiles to be carried by the Type-096 or how many submarines will be built."

China's current sea-based nuclear force includes four Type-094 missile submarines, each outfitted with 16 missiles. Internet reports from China have stated that the future Type-096 will carry up to 24 missiles—similar to numbers at one time carried by Navy Ohio-class missile submarines. Current U.S. missile submarines carry 20 missiles each.

"So it is possible that the Type 096 SSBN could be equipped with hundreds of nuclear warheads," Fisher said.

By contrast, the next generation U.S. missile submarine, the Columbia-class, will carry 16 missiles.

The JL-3 is said by analysts to be a sea-based variant of the road- and rail-mobile DF-41 intercontinental missile that is expected to carry up to 10 warheads per missile.

That missile system is nearing deployment after recent flight tests.

With the new missile subs, "China is headed for a period of rapid buildup in its intercontinental nuclear warhead numbers," Fisher said.

Fisher said the danger will be increased by the growing possibility of offensive nuclear cooperation between China and Russia. "As such, Washington needs to retain the flexibility to increase the number of missiles carried by the future Columbia class SSBN," he said.

Retired Navy Capt. Jim Fanell said if the flight test is confirmed, it would be a sign China is committed to expanding its undersea nuclear delivery capability.

"In the near term, the JL-3 could be used aboard the PLA Navy's Type 094A, a modified JIN-class ballistic missile nuclear submarine (SSBN), with the ultimate goal of being deployed aboard the next generation of PRC SSBNs, the Type 096," Fanell said.

The new Type 096 is expected to be operational by the mid-to-late 2020s.

"Whether aboard the Type 094A or the Type 096, the JL-3 will provide Beijing the ability to target the entirety of the continental United States from bastion patrol stations within the First Island Chain," he said, referring to a line of islands off China's coast stretching from Japan to the South China Sea.

"Given the expected improved quieting of the Type 096 and the up to 10 MIRVs for each of its potential 24 JL-3 missiles, this places an even greater requirement on the U.S. Navy to be able to ‘hold at risk' the People's Liberation Army Navy SSBN force," Fanell said.

To "hold at risk" means Navy nuclear attack submarines must be constantly trailing Chinese missile submarines 24 hours a day.

"As such, the United States must commit to increasing its [nuclear attack submarine] force as quickly as possible, along with other elements of the Navy's anti-submarine warfare architecture," Fanell said.

The Pentagon's annual report on the Chinese military states that the current four Type 094 missile submarines represent "China's first credible, sea-based nuclear deterrent."

"China's next-generation Type 096 SSBN, reportedly to be armed with the follow-on JL-3 SLBM, will likely begin construction in the early-2020s," the report said.

"Based on the 40-plus-year service life of China's first generation [nuclear submarines], China will operate its JIN and Type 096 SSBN fleets concurrently," the report said.

A report by the National Air and Space Intelligence Center said deployment of 48 JL-2s on the four submarines has provided China with a significant nuclear strike capability.

"This missile will, for the first time, allow Chinese SSBNs to target portions of the United States from operating areas located near the Chinese coast," the report said.

Vasily Kashin, a military expert with Institute for Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, told the state-run Sputnik news outlet that China is building up more advanced missiles and submarines over concerns the current JL-2-equipped submarines are vulnerable to U.S. and Japanese naval forces.

The JL-2 "could be used against U.S. allies and American bases in Asia, but their role in deterrence is minor," Kashin said.

"In order to boost its sea-based strategic nuclear forces, China needs a missile with a range of 11,000-13,000 kilometers, preferably with a multiple, independently targetable reentry vehicle," Kashin said.

The JL-2 experienced a troubled development with long lead times and a number of test failures and delays, including a launch failure that destroyed a test submarine, he said, noting the JL-3 program is expected to be less troubled.

"China will use its experience in missile development to avoid repeating its previous mistakes and speed up the creation of a new missile," Kashin said.

China within the past two years began conducting nuclear missile submarine patrols. The patrols remain shrouded in secrecy over Chinese concerns that any disclosures about its nuclear forces will undermine their deterrence value.

China's military imposes an extremely rigid command structure on all its forces over concerns about the loyalty of field commanders. Thus Beijing's military leaders carefully control the power to launch nuclear missiles for submarine commanders.

Chinese intelligence-gathering vessels also are engaged efforts to develop an acoustic signature library of foreign submarines that can be used for targeting by attack submarines.
As China’s Type 001A carrier sets out on fourth sea trial, analysts say call to service must be near
China’s first home built aircraft carrier set out on its fourth sea trial on Thursday, Chinese media reported.

The test began after more than six weeks of maintenance on the Type 001A – a 315 metre (1,033 feet) long, 50,000-tonne vessel – at its home port of Dalian in Liaoning province.

The latest trial, which may involve take-off and landing drills for some of its 32 J-15 fighter jets, would mean technical snagging was complete and the carrier will soon go into service, analysts said.

Recent online photos showed three blast deflectors and three aircraft on the flight deck. The deflector is a device that redirects the exhaust from a jet engine, especially on take-off, to prevent heat damage to the deck and injury to deck crew.

Liaoning Maritime Safety Administration said on Tuesday that an area off the east coast of Dalian in the northern Yellow Sea would be closed to marine traffic between Wednesday and Sunday for military exercises.

The Type 001A embarked upon its five-day maiden voyage in May. Its second sea trial began on August 27 and the third got under way on October 30.

The lag between the third and fourth trial is the shortest, which suggests that the Type 001A is making headway toward its official delivery to the PLA Navy.

Hong Kong-based military expert Song Zhongping said aircraft drills means all other technical issues have been solved.

“The previous three sea trials mainly solved problems like communications and power, which builds a foundation for the exercises involving warplanes,” he said.

“If the warplanes can smoothly take off and land, then it means the indigenous aircraft carrier will soon enter service.”


Beijing based military observer Zhou Chenming echoed that view, and said sea trials should improve the carrier’s air operations.

The defence ministry has not yet confirmed when the Type 001A will enter service, but spokesman Ren Guoqiang said in late November that it was “making steady progress according to the plan, and the sea trials were safe and smooth and achieved the desired objectives”.

Based on the Liaoning, the Soviet Admiral Kuznetsov class vessel that became the PLA’s first commissioned aircraft carrier, the Type 001A features some significant modifications, including upgraded radar and bridge systems. The Type 001A, which will displace 70,000 tonnes when fully laden, will carry 32 J-15s compared to the Liaoning’s 26.

The ship is steam turbine powered, has a ski-jump deck for take-offs, and can accommodate up to 40 aircraft.
China’s Type 001A aircraft carrier close to service, analysts say
Two pilots die in Chinese fighter jet crash
A Chinese navy fighter jet crashed during training on the southern island province of Hainan on Tuesday, killing two pilots, the defence ministry said.

There were "no casualties on the ground," the ministry said in a statement, adding that the cause of the accident was under investigation.

China's military, which is undergoing a well-funded modernisation drive, has had other accidents in recent years.
An air force plane crashed in Guizhou province during a training exercise in January 2018, killing crew members onboard, the air force said, without revealing the number.

State media reported the crash of an aircraft carrier-based J-15 fighter in April 2018 during training, resulting in the death of the pilot.

In 2015, two pilots died during a training session when their plane engine caught fire shortly after take off, state media reported at the time.

Beijing announced last week a 7.5 percent increase in military spending to 1.19 trillion yuan ($177.6 billion) in 2019, a lower rise than last year as the country faces an economic slowdown.

China is working to provide the two million-strong People's Liberation Army with state-of-the-art hardware, spending heavily on stealth warplanes, aircraft carriers and other weaponry.
Two pilots die in Chinese fighter jet crash
Building lot of boats doesn't give the experience to handle them automatically. Rest in Peace.