China is likely to get its second aircraft carrier sooner than the world expects, as the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s (PLAN) homegrown carrier vessel battle group (CVBG) is well on its way to being seaworthy.
The ‘Chinese Dream’ expounded by President Xi Jinping needs a strong navy with power projection capabilities, and the backbone of any country’s ability to display strength beyond its borders is a CVBG.
ThePrint takes a close look at the progress of the vessels at Dalian through satellite imagery.
The CV-17 ‘Shandong’ ::
China’s second aircraft carrier, and the first to be indigenously built, is known as Type 002 CV-17. It is to be named ‘Shandong’, and is out on its third sea trial.
The fitting-out work for the CV-17 had taken barely a year, and hence, Western naval experts expected it would take longer during the sea trials. However, the PLAN has managed to keep up with the schedule for the CV-17, especially in the sea trials phase.
The most visible and major difference between the CV-17 and the previous Type 001 CV-16 ‘Liaoning’ aircraft carrier (of Soviet origin) is the former’s island length. The CV-17 is almost 10 metres shorter.
Satellite images indicate that the deck of the CV-17 has not yet been given an anti-skid coating. However, the bow has been provided with an additional white coat, possibly anti-skid.
The CV-17 has got arrestor cables this time, although the arrestor gear system was in place since last October.
Recent images also show a mock J-15 aircraft and Z-18 helicopter on deck, indicating the carrier vessel’s readiness to accept take-offs and landings.
It is expected that some tyre marks will be observable when the CV-17 returns to dock.
The CV-16 ‘Liaoning’ ::
The CV-16 has been dry-docked for almost four months, since the beginning of July 2018. Recent images dated 29 October and 31 October 2018 indicate that CV-16 is now out of dry dock, after completion of changes.
The CV-16 has got a new coat for its deck, some changes to the bridge and the aviation control room.
Surprisingly, the ‘Liaoning’ now has its pennant number on its island, similar to US Navy aircraft carriers. This is visible on satellite imagery too.
It will be very interesting to watch the CV-16 join the CV-17 during trials. Both are expected to be replenished by a single Type 901 general supply vessel, especially constructed for the support of the Chinese CVBG.
Accommodation ship ::
On this current sea trial too, the CV-17 Shandong has left behind its consort — the Daguan class barracks ship pennant number 89 — at the Dalian shipyard.
The ‘accommodation’ or ‘barracks’ ship moves as a consort to the aircraft carrier.
These ships generally support sea trials, and also possibly provide for an additional set of crew to be rotated during trials for training purposes.
China has two of these Daguan vessels, produced by Guangzhou Shipbuilding International (GSI) at Guangzhou and Longxue.
Two wingman ships — XuxiaKe 88 and TBN 89 — have been observed at Dalian since the CV-17 trials began.