China on Wednesday launched its first locally-built aircraft carrier, less than four years after the construction of the 70,000 tonne warship began at the Dalian shipyard.
The Type 001A carrier is expected to be commissioned into the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) in two years as Beijing seeks to aggressively project its maritime power thousands of miles away from its shores.
The Chinese carrier has been launched at a time when India is still struggling to build its first indigenous carrier Vikrant, being constructed at the state-owned Cochin Shipyard Limited.
The construction of the Indian carrier began in 2009 and it was launched in 2013. The Indian Navy said the carrier would be commissioned in 2018 but a report by the national auditor contradicted the claim, stating that the project is years behind schedule.
The Indian Navy has been operating aircraft carriers for several decades. INS Vikrant, bought from the UK, was commissioned as the Indian Navy’s first carrier in 1961. It was retired in 1997.
India retired its second aircraft carrier INS Viraat earlier this year. The second-hand British warship was inducted in 1987.
China had no aircraft carrier till 2012. The Chinese navy commissioned its first aircraft carrier Liaoning -- a discarded vessel bought from Ukraine – five years ago after extensive refits. Liaoning is a Soviet-era Kuznetsov-class carrier and the new carrier is reportedly based on the same design.
However, China is now swiftly catching up and may also streak ahead of India in the coming years but Beijing is yet to catch up to Delhi in operating these complex floating airfields.
315 metres by 75 metres
J-15 fighters, helicopters
- What next:
China plans to operate a fleet of five to six aircraft carriers over the next decade.
260 metres by 60 metres
2018 but may be delayed
284 metres by 60 metres
- What next?
The Indian Navy plans to deploy two carrier strike groups over the next four to five years. The navy is exploring the possibility of a second indigenous aircraft carrier.