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May 1, 2024

China’s Next-Generation Aircraft Carrier ‘Fujian’ Begins Sea Trials: A Leap Forward in Naval Power

China’s Cutting-Edge Aircraft Carrier ‘Fujian’ Sets Sail for Sea Trials

China’s ambitious naval expansion takes another leap forward as its third indigenous aircraft carrier, the Fujian, embarks on its maiden sea trials. The vessel, boasting advanced technology and formidable capabilities, departed from Shanghai Jiangnan Shipyard on Wednesday, marking a significant milestone for China’s maritime ambitions amid escalating tensions in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait.

The primary objective of the sea trials is to evaluate the reliability and stability of the Fujian’s propulsion and electrical systems. Since its launch in June 2022, the ship has undergone rigorous testing, including mooring trials, outfitting, and equipment adjustments, meeting all technical requirements necessary for sea trials.

As part of the trial process, China has imposed maritime traffic controls around the Yangtze River mouth, where the Jiangnan shipyard is located, to facilitate military activities. These controls are scheduled to remain in effect until May 9, ensuring the safety and security of the trial operations.

China’s strategic vision includes the deployment of five to six aircraft carriers by 2035, aimed at reinforcing its presence in key regions such as the South China Sea, Taiwan Strait, and the Indian Ocean. The Fujian’s deployment signifies Beijing’s assertiveness in asserting its territorial claims in the disputed South China Sea, where tensions with neighboring countries, including the Philippines, remain high.

Currently, the Chinese navy is engaged in a standoff with US-backed Philippine naval forces in the South China Sea over territorial disputes, particularly at the Second Thomas Shoal. China’s firm stance on its claims in the region underscores the strategic importance it places on maritime dominance.

Named after the province of Fujian, which borders the Taiwan Strait, the aircraft carrier represents China’s commitment to bolstering its naval capabilities. Unlike its predecessors, Liaoning and Shandong, the Fujian is the first carrier fully developed and constructed domestically, featuring cutting-edge technology such as an electromagnetic aircraft launch system (EMALS), akin to that of the American USS Gerald R. Ford.

With a displacement of over 80,000 tonnes, the Fujian surpasses its predecessors in size and capability. Its flat-top flight deck distinguishes it from China’s other carriers, which utilize ski-jump take-off ramps. Equipped with the indigenous J-15 aircraft, the Fujian promises enhanced operational efficiency and combat readiness.

China’s investment in naval modernization reflects a strategic shift towards expanding its global influence. The country’s military doctrine, revised in 2013, prioritizes the development of the navy while reducing the number of army troops. This shift underscores China’s intent to project power far beyond its shores, with a focus on maritime dominance.

The modernization efforts encompass not only aircraft carriers but also submarines, frigates, and assault ships, showcasing China’s commitment to becoming a dominant naval force. Additionally, China’s naval expansion extends beyond its borders, with initiatives to assist other countries, such as Pakistan, in modernizing their naval fleets through the provision of advanced frigates and submarines.

As the Fujian embarks on its sea trials, China reaffirms its status as a formidable maritime power, poised to shape the geopolitics of the Indo-Pacific region for years to come.

Jhumpa Lahiri

Jhumpa Lahiri

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