China's second aircraft carrier returns to dock at Dalian Shipyard in Northeast China's Liaoning Province, May 18, 2018, after its first sea trials. (Photo: 81.cn)
China's second aircraft carrier can carry at least 36 domestically developed J-15 fighter jets, some 50 percent more than the country's first, China's state broadcaster reported on Tuesday.
China's first aircraft carrier the Liaoning can carry 24 J-15 fighter jets, China Central Television (CCTV) reported, noting the new ship's increased number of jets will add to its capability.
Although the second carrier known as the Type 001A is similar to the Liaoning, it has an optimized flight deck, reduced weapon areas and a smaller superstructure with added deck areas, Li Jie, a Beijing naval expert, told the Global Times on Tuesday.
Li noted that it also has an enlarged hangar, but reduced space for missile storage compared to the Liaoning.
These extra areas allow the new carrier to carry 50 percent more J-15 fighter jets, Li said.
The 24 J-15s of the Liaoning could be a limiting factor as regional combat might require about 40 aircraft to seize air supremacy, Li said. The 36 jets on the Type 001A would expand its combat capability, he said.
In addition to the 36 J-15 fighter jets, the Type 001A can carry other types of aircraft including helicopters, Chinese analysts said.
The US operates much larger aircraft carriers, including the Nimitz class which can carry about 60 aircraft, while the country's latest Ford class can carry about 75.
Hu Wenming, chairman of China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation and head of China's aircraft carrier program, said "China now has a mature development and construction team, and the average age of team members is only 36," CCTV reported.
"Whatever type of aircraft carrier our country wants to develop in the future, we can make it on our own," Hu said.
The team can build any other type of warship given its expertise, Hu noted.
It took 26 months to build and launch the Type 001A, which is China's first domestically developed aircraft carrier, CCTV reported, or almost half the time of a foreign aircraft carrier of similar type to finish construction.
The Type 001A was launched in April 2017 and has undertaken six sea trials since May 2018.
It is reportedly conducting its seventh, after setting sail on August 1. There were no signs the ship had returned to its dock as of press time.
Li said the latest, lengthy sea trial could be in preparation for its final delivery to the Chinese navy.