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Beijing planning nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, state media suggests

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According to state-backed media, the Chinese government is working to build a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.

The suggestion of a nuclear aircraft carrier was put forward by the state-owned China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC), the country’s largest shipbuilding conglomerate, which shared its plans for the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, among other technical developments it hopes to carry to upgrade the Chinese navy by 2025.

“We must […] speed up key breakthroughs such as the realisation of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, new-style nuclear submarines, quiet submarines, maritime unmanned intelligent confrontation systems, maritime three-dimensional offensive and defensive systems and naval warfare comprehensive electronic information systems,” the document said, according to the Global Times.

The Global Times reports that military experts believe China may have made progress in researching nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and that these plans could soon be confirmed by the Chinese government.

“I think we can say that China has made major breakthroughs in the implementation of nuclear power on large vessels,” Li Jie, a naval expert, told the Global Times. In November 2017, Hu Wenming, chairman of the board of CSIC, said that China had the capabilities to design and build any type of aircraft carrier.

“Hu’s speech indicates that China can build aircraft carriers powered by either diesel, gas or nuclear power. The country has mastered all the fundamental core technologies, including ski-jump and catapult-assisted launch technologies,” said Li.

Previously, Chinese state media has suggested that the country requires at least six aircraft carriers; this could take decades to achieve. The details of its plans for this expansion of its fleet are state secrets.

CSIC was also responsible for building China’s first home-built aircraft carrier, Type 001A, which was based on the design of the Liaoning and is expected to enter active service in 2020. The Liaoning, China’s first aircraft carrier, was bought second hand from Ukraine and refitted for service.

CSIC is working on another aircraft carrier, Type 002, which will be designed, constructed and kitted out using only CSIC’s own technology. Type 002 is thought to be currently under construction and may incorporate an electromagnetic aircraft launch system.

The development of these aircraft carriers is one component of China’s ongoing modernisation of its military. In October 2017, President of China Xi Jinping promised to transform China’s military into a world-leading force by 2050, with technological development at the heart of this. This includes generous state investment in new aircraft carriers, missiles and stealth fighters.

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