Stringer via Reuters
- China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, was declared "combat ready" in 2016 but has primarily served as a training vessel.
- The ship’s executive officer told Chinese media that the carrier is being upgraded and transformed to serve in a combat role.
- Were it to find itself in combat, it could be pitted against other regional navies or even the US Navy, which has its own carriers regularly operating in the area.
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China is trying to transform its first aircraft carrier, currently a training vessel, into a combat ship ready to wage war, a senior officer has revealed.
Lu Qianqiang, the Liaoning’s executive officer, told state-run broadcaster CCTV that ship is currently being upgraded to serve in a combat role, making it more than just a training tool as China strives to become a world-class naval power with a modern carrier force, the Global Times reported.
The Liaoning, China’s only operational carrier, is a Soviet heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser that China purchased and refitted. It was officially commissioned into the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) in 2012. Beijing is believed to be close to commissioning its first domestically produced carrier, and a third flat top is apparently in the works.
The first Chinese carrier was used to design the country’s second carrier — which resembles the Liaoning and is designated Type 001A, though it has no official name — and was expected to serve as a training vessel for carrier operations.
Now China wants to turn the Liaoning, which was technically declared "combat ready" in 2016, into a combat vessel.
Lu Qiangqiang, an executive officer aboard the Liaoning, told Chinese media that the PLAN had upgraded the arresting cables and arresting nets, improved the anti-jamming capabilities of the superstructure, enlarged the flight control tower, optimized the propulsion and power systems, and made changes to the flight deck.
"These changes will definitely help us make the best of the ship, improve our training protocols and boost our combat capability even further," Lu explained. "The Liaoning is shifting from a training and test ship to a combat ship. I believe this process is going faster and faster, and we will achieve our goal very soon."
This would be a big change for the Liaoning. Here is how the Chinese ship compares with US carriers.
The Liaoning, originally known as the Varyag, is about 1,000 feet long and displaces about 60,000 tons fully loaded. It is the sister ship of Russia’s disappointing Admiral Kuznetsov carrier.
Russia is reportedly thinking about putting the Kuznetsov out of its misery.
The US Navy’s Nimitz- and Ford-class carriers are over 1,000 feet long and displace roughly 100,000 tons.
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Alex King/Released
The Liaoning is diesel-powered, and the diesel-fueled steam turbine power plants are inefficient and reduce the speed and service life of the carrier. Its top speed is believed to be somewhere between 20 knots and 30 knots. The range is apparently limited to a few thousand miles.
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