It is a race even before they take to water. Both India and China are building their first indigenous aircraft carriers and both expect to complete the same by 2018. While the construction of India’s aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant, is moving at a steady pace, China has upped the speed of construction of the Type 001A “CV17” aircraft carrier.
The Type 001A will be China’s second aircraft carrier after Liaoning – a carrier it purchased from Russia.
According to reports, the aircraft carrier took a major step towards completion with the installation of an island structure on an unspecified date in October 2016.
The island is the building which houses the air-traffic control and bridge and is located on the starboard (right) side of the ship. Reports say that the island was so huge it had to be installed in two pieces.
The construction of the ship is being done by the Dalian Shipbuilding Industry Corporation. Type 001A will have a design similar to the Type 001 Liaoning, which includes a ski-jump ramp for short takeoffs of aircraft. But while the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) uses the Liaoning more as a training vessel, the Type 001A will be a fully equipped and well-armed aircraft carrier.
In effect, the ship is but a copy of the Liaoning except that the array of weapons, the aircraft and the radars will be more advanced.
Type 001A will carry a complement of J-15 strike fighters which will be supported by Type 346A radars. The installation of the island completes all major works on the ship. All that remains is installation of self-defence weapons, sensors and electronics besides the propellers and rudder.
This is not the only aircraft carrier China is building. Beijing has already started constructing the third carrier, Type 002.
It will have a catapult-equipped takeoff facility and is being built by the Shanghai based Jiangnan Shipyard. Given China’s proven pace of construction, the Type 001A might be launched by the end of this year and will certainly enter service by 2018. By that time, China will be almost ready with its third aircraft carrier and will have begun constructing its first nuclear-powered carrier. In all likelihood, China will be having its targeted six aircraft carriers by 2025, of which two will be nuclear-powered. India, too, will be having a nuclear-powered indigenously built supercarrier INS Vishal.