China has been pushing ahead with construction of a mega-sized nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to be completed in 2020, according to a Chinese Communist Party's dossier.
A source close to Chinese military affairs said on March 27 that China has been promoting the construction of a 93,000-ton atomic-powered carrier under a plan titled the "085 Project." The nation also has a plan to build a 48,000-ton non-nuclear-powered carrier under the so-called "089 Project," added the source.
The source made such remarks based on government a dossier that reveals that China’s Central Military Commision recently approved the two projects. The dossier also contained specifications of the aircraft carriers.
China had so far been known to be pushing ahead with construction of a non-nuclear-powered carrier, but not an atomic-powered one.
Once the proposed Chinese carriers are deployed, the radius of the Chinese Navy’s range is expected to reach Guam, where a U.S. base is located. Thus, military experts are worried about China’s moves prompting an arms race in Northeast Asia.
The dossier said the construction of the nuclear-powered carrier will be completed in 2020. China State Shipbuiling Corp’s Jiangnan shipyard located on Changxing Island near Shanghai, will be responsible for its design and construction. The size is similar to former Soviet’s unfinished atomic-powered carrier Ulyanovsk, the dossier states. China reportedly secretly purchased the design of Ulyanovsk from Russia. When the nuclear-powered carrier is finished, China will own an aircraft carrier which is on par with the U.S.’s newest of such vessels, the 97,000-ton atomic-powered USS Ronald Reagan, which recently docked at Busan Port to participate in a joint exercise between the South Korean and U.S. militaries.
According to the dossier, China plans to construct a non-atomic-powered carrier as a transition stage to building the larger nuclear-powered one. The non-atomic-powered carrier, due to be completed in 2010, will be a mid-sized carrier with a standard displacement of 48,000 tons and a full-load displacement of 64,000 tons and will be able to carry 30-40 Chinese-built J-10 fighters, which China fielded in December last year. The Chinese authorities are reportedly overhauling J-10 fighters to be loaded onto the new aircraft carriers. Until the work is complete, the new carriers are going to handle 10-20 Russian-made Su-33 fighters.
The non-nuclear-powered carrier is reported to be a revised version of Ukraine’s Varyag, which China purchased in 1998. A shipyard in Dalian is in charge of its design and construction. After the new carrier is completed, Varyag will be used for military training only.
Remarks made by Zhang Yunchuan, Minister of the Commission on Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense, to reporters after the National People’s Congress (NPC) on March 16 - "The construction of an aircraft carrier with China-developed technology will be completed by 2010" - support the dossier’s information as reported by the source.
A general-ranked official at South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense said, "China’s plan to push ahead with construction of atomic-powered aircraft carrier has not been widely known. However, it is sufficiently to predict that the nation will ultimately pursue the ownership of such a vessel."
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