Delayed twice due to technical issues and COVID shutdowns (and a dash of corruption), the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) of China’s first Type 003 carrier was christened Fujian (CV 18) at the Jiangnan shipyard in Shanghai on Friday.
Though China’s third aircraft carrier, she is the largest and the first in the world–other than the Ford-class supercarriers in the U.S.– to be equipped with electromagnetic (EMALS) catapult technology (give you three guesses where the tech packages came from for that), allowing her to operate larger and more capable aircraft.
In short, she is the SMS Nassau to HMS Dreadnought. or HMS Warrior to the French ironclad Gloire in terms of naval history.
Named after mainland China’s southeastern coastal province, Fujian has been under construction since 2015. Using an integrated electric propulsion (IEP) powerplant rather than a nuclear plant like the USN, she is estimated to have an overall length of 1,050 feet at the flight deck, putting her only about 50 feet shorter than Ford/Nimitz-class aircraft carriers.
She is also thought to be as much as 30,000 tons heavier than China’s existing 1,000-foot Type 001/002 (modified Russian Kuznetsov-class) STOBAR ski-jump carriers Shandong (CV 17) and Liaoning (CV 16) that they have tinkering around with for the past 25 years.
When completed in the next few years, Fujian will put the PLAN in the same elite club of CATOBAR operators as the Americans and French, with the latter using a modified U.S. Navy C-13 steam catapult system on their sole 45,000-ton carrier Charles de Gaulle (also the only other nuclear-powered carrier in service outside of the USN). However, another new member of the club is just over the horizon– the Indian Navy’s 65,000-ton Vikrant-class INS Vishal is slated to use a modified American-supplied EMALS system in a CATOBAR format when (if) she becomes operational in the 2030s.