Full Steam Ahead, CNS Fujian – China’s Most Advanced Carrier to Begin Testing

China's most advanced aircraft carrier, the CNS Fujian, to embark on sea trials after completing propulsion system tests.

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Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P. Chacko is the publisher of Frontier India. He holds an M.B.A in International Business. Books: Author: Foxtrot to Arihant: The Story of Indian Navy's Submarine Arm; Co Author : Warring Navies - India and Pakistan. *views are Personal

The CNS Fujian, the third aircraft carrier of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and launched in June 2022, has embarked on a significant journey. Departing from the Jiangnan shipyard, a pivotal moment in its path to active service, the carrier was accompanied by tugboats as it navigated its way to the mouth of the Yangtze River. This movement follows the propulsion system trials on April 21, a crucial step in the ship’s development.  

All indications indicate that the initial testing campaign for this brand-new ship is about to start immediately. Because it incorporates several innovations compared to the two that came before it, the CNS Liaoning (previously Varyag) and the CNS Shandong, it is quite probable that a number of tests will be required before it is put into active operation.  

The aircraft carrier has a length of 320 meters and a displacement of at least 80,000 tons. It was built using a configuration known as CATOBAR (Catapult Assisted Take-Off But Arrested Recovery). Unlike its predecessors, the CNS Liaoning and the CNS Shandong, the CNS Fujian is distinguished by this particular characteristic, which enables it to be equipped with catapults and arresting gear. Other aircraft carriers, such as the French and the American, are comparable to this one.

The CATOBAR configuration of the CNS Fujian holds immense potential to enhance the aviation capabilities of the Chinese Navy. This design allows for increased flexibility and agility in air operations, facilitating the deployment of specific aircraft like the KJ-600 airborne early warning aircraft and the J-35 fighter-bomber, derived from the FC-31 ‘Gyrfalcon ‘. To demonstrate this potential, models of these aircraft categories were recently spotted on the ship’s deck, providing a clear view of its strategic implications.  

Last but not least, the CNS Fujian, much like the American aircraft carriers of the Gerald Ford class, is outfitted with at least three Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch Systems (EMALS), as evidenced by the most recent test photographs. A device like this has several advantages over steam catapults, including a lower level of mechanical stress on aircraft, a simpler maintenance process, and a higher launch frequency.

As a reminder, the EMALS principle is based on a Linear Induction Motor (LIM), which uses a substantial amount of energy in a few seconds. This was a challenge for the United States Navy during the development process of the EMALS. Consequently, there is a demand for inertia wheels that can store up to one hundred megajoules and recharge in less than one minute. The Gerald Ford aircraft carrier is equipped with two powerful nuclear reactors that are responsible for providing the necessary electricity. The traditional propulsion system is used by the CNS Fujian, on the other hand.  

In 2018, the CNS Shandong, the first aircraft carrier built entirely in China, started its sea trials. However, as a result of these trials, “adjustments” were made, and the formal announcement of its introduction into active service was made in December 2019, following a delay of a few months and thirty-two months after its first debut. In light of this, the objective of putting the CNS Fujian into operation by 2025 appears to be rather ambitious.

Despite this, Admiral Yuan Huazhi, the political commissar of the Chinese Navy, stated in March that a fourth aircraft carrier would be built. However, he did not clarify whether or not the carrier would be equipped with a nuclear propulsion system.  

Fujian is preparing for testing while the French has given the go-ahead for work on its “New Generation Aircraft Carrier” (Porte-Avions de Nouvelle Génération, abbreviated PA NG). According to the latest data revealed by the French Naval Group at the 2022 European Naval Exhibition, the PA NG aircraft carrier will have a length of 310 meters, a width of 85 meters, a draft of 10.8 meters, and a full-load displacement of 75,000 tons. In comparison, the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier has a length of 261.5 meters, a width of 66.5 meters, and a full-load displacement of only 42,500 tons.

Arun Prakash, a former Indian admiral, retweeted the French Defence Minister’s post on the same subject and stated on his X handle that there is a window for a joint Indo-French initiative to build PA-NG in France and IAC-2 in India. As per the former Admiral, there are several possibilities to gain both ship design/construction and nuclear design/propulsion skills and work collaboratively.  


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