According to the South China Morning Post (SCMP), this is the first time the Fujian aircraft carrier has appeared in Chinese media since April 2023.

In the evening news on January 3 of CCTV, China revealed the first official images of the Fujian aircraft carrier, and its advanced electromagnetic catapult system. Fujian – China’s first aircraft carrier equipped with 3 catapults and the appearance of a fighter jet that appears to be a J-15 on the flight deck.

According to the South China Morning Post (SCMP), this is the first time the Fujian aircraft carrier has appeared in Chinese media since April 2023. This is also part of the country’s military’s response to President Xi Jinping’s call for “national rejuvenation” in the new year – a term that includes the unification of mainland China and Taiwan.

SCMP commented that the introduction of an aircraft carrier on such a popular CCTV television program could signal Beijing’s confidence in the ship’s development process. According to SCMP, Liaoning and Shandong – China’s first two aircraft carriers – with older generation ski jumps systems. Meanwhile, the launch system on the Fujian aircraft carrier is electromagnetically powered, allowing aircraft to be launched more frequently and carry more fuel and ammunition.

An electromagnetic catapult, often referred to as an Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS), is a type of aircraft launching system developed primarily for use on aircraft carriers. It represents a significant technological leap from traditional steam catapults, providing more control and efficiency in launching aircraft.

Traditionally, aircraft carriers have used steam-powered catapults to launch aircraft. These systems rely on high-pressure steam to drive a piston that propels the aircraft forward. However, steam catapults have limitations in terms of the range of aircraft they can effectively launch, the wear and tear on both the planes and the catapult, and the extensive maintenance they require.

The electromagnetic catapult, in contrast, utilizes a linear induction motor. This motor generates a magnetic field that propels a carriage along a track. Unlike the steam catapult, EMALS can control the acceleration of the aircraft more precisely, ensuring a smoother and more adaptable launch. This precision is particularly beneficial for launching both heavier and lighter aircraft, something steam catapults struggle with.

In terms of efficiency, electromagnetic catapults are a leap forward. They are more energy-efficient compared to their steam counterparts, translating to cost savings and reduced resource consumption over time. Countries with EMALS-equipped carriers can project more power and have a greater range of options in terms of the aircraft they can deploy, which could alter strategic calculations in various regions of the world.

Fujian is the first of the Type 003 class aircraft carriers. The carrier’s size is expected to be similar to the unfinished 85,000-ton Soviet aircraft carrier Ulyanovsk and the United States Navy’s 100,000-ton supercarriers. Early assessment measured the Type 003 at approximately 300 meters long; renewed assessment indicated that its length was 316 meters and has a flight deck with a width of 76 meters. Comparisons have also been drawn to the American Kitty Hawk-class aircraft carriers. Earlier press reports and Chinese media generally suggested that the ship might have a displacement of around 80,000 tons to 85,000 tons. Later assessments, backed by satellite images, suggested the displacement was underestimated, and the Type 003 carrier might be closer in displacement to about 100,000 tons. It is believed that the Type 003 would be the “largest and most advanced aircraft carrier ever built outside the United States”.


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