Fujian: China’s Newest Aircraft Carrier Rivals US Navy in Size

Faye Higbee

China’s newest aircraft carrier, named the Fujian, was launched on June 17 in Shanghai. The standard uplifted bow is gone from the design, and the system is now akin to some American ships with three catapults. Analysts say it is as large as the Nimitz-class carriers in the US Navy. Its name is a not-so-subtle statement about Taiwan – the Chinese province of Fujian is closest to Taiwan.

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Until now, China has only had two aircraft carriers: the Liáoníng which was created from an old Soviet ship, and the Shandong, which was the first totally Chinese made carrier. Each of those only carried 30 aircraft. The Nimitz carriers in the US fleet typically carry 70 aircraft each. The new Fujian (Type 003) is significantly different from the other two: it has an Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch system – or EMALS. The system is akin to the one on the new USS Gerald R. Ford and runs on electricity instead of steam. The flight deck is nearly identical to the Nimitz class US ships. The Fujian itself runs on traditional diesel fuel rather than nuclear power as ours do. China has not released the size, but observers say it may be a long as 1,092 feet.

China has been rapidy upgrading their military capabilities, particularly in the area of their Navy. In the Chinese system the Navy is subordinate to the PLA- People’s Liberation Army. Their Navy is called the PLAN- People’s Liberation Army Navy.

The Type-003 carrier will be the latest and best carrier in Chinese service. It is expected to carry the latest J-35 fighter, China’s answer to the F-35C Lightning-II. The J-35 is a twin engine aircraft however, a characteristic traditionally favored for naval operations.

The new carrier’s significance is not the incremental improvements over earlier ones. Having three carriers will give the Chinese navy greater power projection capabilities. As a blue water fleet, China will be able to deploy its carrier battle groups with greater frequency. It will also be able to bring multiple carrier battle groups to bear on a situation. This may have a tactical and strategic relevance…

There is an increase in aircraft carrier capabilities worldwide. The U.S. Navy still has a massive lead, but China will take the second spot in terms of numbers and size. It faces competition though. Britain has revived its once-pioneering capability, and France is building a newer carrier in the same league as the Chinese ones.

But China may not be finished with three. Currently only America and France have nuclear powered carriers. Defense analysts are watching for a Chinese nuclear powered carrier to follow the Type-003.

Naval News

The United States operates 11 aircraft carriers, 10 Nimitz Class and the Gerald R. Ford, which is slightly larger. The next one due out is the USS John F. Kennedy, which is scheduled for 2024. China only has 3. But though they are obviously playing catch up, they are also wiley and will resort to whatever it takes to win.


Featured screenshot via OSINT- Open Source Intelligence. The red banners read: “to build a strong and modern navy, and provide strong support for the realization of the Chinese dream of a strong military. To realize the party’s goal of strengthening the army in the new era, and build the people’s army into a world-class army in an all-round way.”

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