The new Chinese Type 004 aircraft carrier design emerges, showing similarities to the US Ford class and the future French new-generation aircraft carrier.
Type 004 Design Reveal
Illustrations from the Jiangnan shipyard have been released, presenting a possible design for the future Chinese Type 004 aircraft carrier. This design shows differences from the Type 003 aircraft carrier under construction, Fujian, and similarities to its American and French counterparts.
This new concept comes as the first Chinese-built aircraft carrier, the Shandong, makes its maiden voyage across the Western Pacific, sailing through the Bashi Channel south of Taiwan.
The Type 004 design is noted to feature a CATOBAR (catapult-assisted takeoff and arrested recovery) configuration, allowing for the launch of aircraft with higher weights and a broader range of aircraft types.
Speculations on features and capabilities
There is speculation that the new design could be nuclear-powered, providing unlimited range and greater capabilities to generate electricity for advanced weapons, sensors, and mission systems.
A future Chinese CATOBAR aircraft carrier is likely to incorporate an electromagnetic aircraft launch system (EMALS), as Fujian has. Currently, the world’s only operational aircraft carrier with this system is the US USS Gerald R. Ford.
Similarities to the Ford class and the French aircraft carrier
The Jiangnan design shows external similarities with the Ford class and new-generation French designs, especially regarding the island superstructure’s placement and the radar antennas’ configuration on its upper sides.
PLAN: Expansion of the aircraft carrier force
The PLAN (People’s Liberation Army of China Navy) shows ambition in expanding its aircraft carrier force, including increasingly capable ships like the future Fujian. Despite the debate over the future utility of aircraft carriers, the PLAN considers these power projection platforms valuable.
Shandong and tensions with Taiwan
The recent voyage of the Shandong through the Western Pacific highlights the growing capabilities of Chinese aircraft carriers and their ability to employ them far from mainland China. This comes at a time of tension with Taiwan, following Taiwanese President Tsai Ing Wen’s meeting with US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
A future with more aircraft carriers and greater capacity
Regardless of whether Jiangnan’s new concept represents current plans for the Type 004, it reflects the PLAN’s desire to expand its combat fleet with more advanced carriers and in greater numbers.
The presence of more aircraft carriers would allow the PLAN to have one at sea, another preparing for deployment, and another in a post-deployment or maintenance phase, simultaneously. Additional aircraft carriers would further enhance that capability.
Global and strategic implications
The adoption of nuclear-powered ships would reduce some logistical demands on fleets operating around the world. The expansion of China’s aircraft carrier force also reflects its ambition to increase its presence in the global arena and maintain a strategic advantage in potential conflicts.
Conclusion: The Evolution of Chinese Naval Power
The emergence of the Chinese Type 004 aircraft carrier design demonstrates the evolution of Chinese naval power and its desire to match the naval powers of the US and France. As China continues to develop its aircraft carrier force, the world is watching with interest the implications of this expansion on the global and regional balance of power.