China’s first aircraft carrier may become test bed for top flight electromagnetic warplane launcher


China is considering equipping its only serving aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, with a hi-tech launch system that will render its ski-jump flight deck obsolete and create a platform for training pilots in the latest naval aviation skills.

A retired PLA Navy officer told the South China Morning Post that the 14-degree deck on the Soviet-built ship might be fitted with electromagnetic catapults.

“This will make the Liaoning a training platform to fly warplanes for China’s next generation aircraft carrier, the Type 002,” the officer said on condition of anonymity.

“It’s just a proposal because pilots on the ski-jump aboard the Liaoning will become less important after its sister ship, the Type 001A, goes into service later this year.”

Using the lessons learned in refitting the Liaoning, originally a Soviet Kuznetsov class carrier acquired in 1998, China launched the Type 001A in April 2017. It is likely to be named Shandong when it enters service on a date that could be as early as the navy’s anniversary in late April, according to Beijing-based naval analyst Li Jie.

The Type 002, meanwhile, will be fitted with catapults similar to those found on the nuclear-powered USS Gerald Ford, which uses the world’s most advanced electromagnetic aircraft launch system.

The system would allow the PLA Navy to launch planes carrying a greater weapons payload and more fuel, expanding operations.