China’s first aircraft carrier, “Liaoning,” went into service in 2012 after China purchased a hull from Ukraine and carried out improvements on it.
Upon completion, the vessel in Dalian will become China’s second aircraft carrier. Construction started around the beginning of 2015. China’s Defense Ministry confirmed it was being built at the end of that year. The ministry said the vessel’s displacement is 50,000 tons — small compared to other aircraft carriers — and that it is powered by conventional sources rather than nuclear energy.
It is believed the Xi administration has set a national goal of establishing three carrier battle groups by 2020. There is information that China’s third aircraft carrier is under construction in Shanghai, although this has not been officially confirmed.
A source familiar with military affairs said, “The initial target of the Chinese military is to deploy aircraft carriers in the South China Sea and East China Sea.”
The first aircraft carrier’s home port is Qingdao, Shandong Province. It is likely that the carrier being built in Dalian will be deployed at Sanya, Hainan Province, facing the South China Sea.
However, the new carrier in Dalian has no catapults for launching heavy aircraft. China still faces many technological challenges. It will take many more years for China to domestically build a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier similar to those deployed by the United States.