Chasing A Blue Water Navy, China Reveals Plans For A Nuclear-Powered Aircraft Carrier

Ryan Pickrell | China/Asia Pacific Reporter

A Chinese state-owned shipbuilding company appears to have let slip Chinese interests in building a nuclear-powered aircraft to advance its push for a powerful blue water navy, according to Chinese media.

China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC), in an announcement that appears to have since been edited, revealed its plan for the future of Chinese naval forces.

“We must resolutely implement [Chinese President] Xi Jinping’s thinking on strengthening the military to establish a modern maritime combat system with Chinese characteristics by accelerating the development of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, new-style nuclear submarines, quiet submarines, unmanned intelligent underwater defense systems” to enhance “the navy’s global combat capability and facilitate its strategic transition to a far seas, blue water navy with quality weapons and equipment by 2025,” the original announcement read, according to Chinese media posts on China’s military modernization plans.

The Liaoning, China’s first aircraft carrier, is a former Soviet “heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser” that China purchased and repurposed. China’s second aircraft carrier is an indigenously produced naval asset similar to the already-operational Liaoning. The second carrier was launched in 2017 and is expected to be commissioned into the navy before the end of this decade.

A third carrier is believed to be in the works, but details are few as China’s carrier development is a state secret.

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Chinese military experts assert that China needs at least six aircraft carriers to defend its national interests abroad as Chinese ambitions stretch further from the country’s shores. “Our aircraft carrier is not a recluse,” the state-run People’s Daily wrote in 2017, adding, “Sooner or later, it will push past the ‘second island chain’ and into the Eastern Pacific.”

China’s naval forces trail behind the U.S., but Beijing is determined to build a world-class navy.

As is, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy has the largest surface fleet, with around 300 ships. The U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence suspects that number will grow significantly by 2020.

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