Inside China's Shandong aircraft carrier


According to information published by South China Morning Post on April 2021, the release of a new state media video of China’s Shandong aircraft carrier suggests the giant vessel might soon be heading out on the high seas as it continues its preparations to become combat-ready, according to a military insider.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001  A J-15 fighter on the flight deck of the Shandong (Picture source: CCTV)


Shandong has already conducted nine sea trails, but they were all in Bohai Bay or the South China Sea, which is relatively close to its home base, military expert says.

“The Shandong will probably start its drills and training on the high seas later this year, which is a necessary step for it to achieve initial operational capability,” a source close to the navy said.

“After being handed over to the navy, it takes at least 18 months for an aircraft carrier to achieve IOC as there are thousands of items to test and approve,” said Zhou Chenming, a researcher at the Yuan Wang military think tank in Beijing.

The Shandong, which is China’s first domestically developed aircraft carrier, features 12,000 different equipment systems. It is on course to become the navy’s second carrier with IOC status, after the Liaoning.

The video also provided information about the Shandong’s ski-jump for launching jets and its powerful cannons capable of firing 10,000 rounds a minute. A CCTV reporter said the angle of the ski-jump was 14 degrees, and not 12 degrees as many experts had guessed.

“China Shipbuilding Industry Corp has never announced the angle, but the blueprint for the Liaoning shows that the angle on its ramp is 14 degrees,” Beijing-based naval expert Li Jie said.
“But based on the thrust of the J-15 fighter jet, many experts believed the ramp angle on the Shandong would have to be reduced a little,” he said.

Hong Kong-based military commentator Liang Guoliang said the ski-jump angle on the Liaoning – a Soviet-designed Kuznetsov-class carrier China bought from Ukraine in 1998 – was designed to accommodate Russian Su-33 Flanker fighters.

“Four options for the ski-jump ramp angle – eight, 12, 14 and 16 degrees – were tested,” Liang said. “More powerful aircraft need a lower angle, and it’s a fact that China’s J-15 is more powerful than the Su-33.”

The aircraft carrier's design is largely based on China's first carrier Liaoning, which was itself built from the partially complete hull of the Soviet Kuznetsov-class aircraft carrier Varyag. The ship is powered by conventional oil-fired boilers driving eight steam turbines derived from the Soviet-designed examples installed on Liaoning. It measures about 315 metres (1,033 ft) long, with a displacement of about 55,000 tonnes (66,000 - 70,000 loaded).

Shandong, like its predecessor, uses the simpler "short take-off but arrested recovery" (STOBAR) launch and recovery system.

STOBAR ("Short Take-Off But Arrested Recovery" or "Short Take-Off, Barrier Arrested Recovery") is a system used for the launch and recovery of aircraft from the deck of an aircraft carrier, combining elements of "short take-off and vertical landing" (STOVL) with "catapult-assisted take-off but arrested recovery" (CATOBAR).

Aircraft launch under their own power using a ski-jump to assist take-off (rather than using a catapult). However, the planes are conventional, rather than STOVL aircraft, and thus require arrestor wires to land on the ship. The STOBAR system is simpler to build than CATOBAR. As of 2018 it has been used regularly on Russian, Indian, and Chinese carriers.

STOBAR carriers must maintain a speed of 20–30 kn (37–56 km/h) in order to generate wind speed required on deck which is essential for conducting aircraft launch operations.


Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 Flight deck of the Shandong aircraft carrier (Picture source: CCTV)


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