China has begun building its second aircraft carrier and will eventually build four of them, a provincial Party leader said, according to local media.
Hong Kong-based Ta Kung Pao newspaper quoted Wang Min, the Party chief of Northeast China’s Liaoning province as saying that construction of China’s second carrier had begun in the port city of Dalian in Liaoning province. Wang said that the carrier would be completed in six years’ time, and that China ultimately intended to build four aircraft carriers.
If true, this would be China’s first indigenously built aircraft carrier. China’s first carrier, the Liaoning, is a Ukraine carrier that was refitted at a shipyard in Dalian. The PLA Navy (PLAN) commissioned the Liaoning in late 2012, and it recently underwent test trials in the South China Sea.
Ta Kung Pao later took down the report, although not before it was picked up by numerous international media outlets and, on Sunday, the official Global Times ran an article on Wang’s comments. The Global Times said that China’s Defense Ministry had not responded to inquiries about the Hong Kong news reports. However, the fact that the Global Times carried the story lent credibility to the Ta Kung Pao report.
It has long been assumed that China was interested in building additional aircraft carriers. In August a picture posted to Chinese military forums appeared to show a carrier under construction in southern China. However, some foreign analysts later speculated that the picture was actually of an amphibious assault ship capable of carrying hovercraft and helicopters.
When asked about the photos in August, Yang Yujun, a defense ministry spokesperson, would only say that the Liaoning would not be China’s only aircraft carrier. In late November, South China Morning Post, citing a military source, reported that China planned to build up to four medium size carriers by 2020. Then, in December of last year, Australia’s The Age cited Chinese website qianzhan.com in reporting that China planned to build a nuclear-powered 110,000 ton super carrier by 2020 and two smaller carriers by 2015. That report seemed overly ambitious.
Chinese military analysts told the Global Times that the second carrier was likely to be similar to the Liaoning in terms of tonnage, and would also feature a ski-jump take-off ramp.
Wang was also quoted as saying that the shipyard in Dalian was building two 052D missile destroyers. Notably, during its recent training exercises in the South China Sea, the Liaoning was escorted by two Type 051C or Luzhou class destroyers, as well as two missile frigates.