How Advanced Is China’s Third Aircraft Carrier?

How Advanced Is China’s Third Aircraft Carrier?
How Advanced Is China’s Third Aircraft Carrier?
How Advanced Is China’s Third Aircraft Carrier? Top

    Aircraft carriers are one of the most visible symbols of a country’s military power. China is among a small handful of countries that possess multiple aircraft carriers. China launched its third aircraft carrier, the Fujian, on June 17, 2022. Once operational, it will be considerably more advanced than China’s second carrier, the Shandong, and its first carrier, the Liaoning.

    The Fujian is currently being fitted out at Shanghai’s Jiangnan Shipyard and is expected to undergo multiple rounds of sea trials in the coming months. These trials will ensure its readiness before it is commissioned into the People’s Liberation Army Navy.

    Key Facts

    • The Fujian will feature a “catapult assisted take-off but arrested recovery” (CATOBAR) launch system that will enable it to launch heavier and larger fixed-wing aircraft. China’s first two aircraft carriers rely on less advanced ski jump-style “short take-off, barrier-arrested recovery” (STOBAR) systems. 
    • The Fujian’s catapults will be powered by an electromagnetic system similar to that of the U.S. Navy’s new Gerald R. Ford-class carriers. This represents a leapfrogging past more conventional steam-powered catapults. 
    • The Fujian is larger than its predecessors, which will enable it to support a more robust airwing. It displaces roughly 80,000 tonnes, compared to the Liaoning’s 60,000 tonnes and the Shandong’s 66,000. The Fujian is also considerably larger than France’s Charles de Gaulle carrier (42,000 tonnes) and the United Kingdom’s HMS Queen Elizabeth (65,000 tonnes), but smaller than the U.S. Navy’s Ford-class carrier (100,000 tonnes). 
    • While the Fujian will be more advanced than its Chinese predecessors, it will still be conventionally powered rather than nuclear-powered. Meanwhile, all U.S. carriers and France’s Charles de Gaulle are nuclear-powered.

    How the Fujian Stacks Up

    The table below provides a breakdown of some of the key characteristics of each of China's aircraft carriers. To lean more, explore these ChinaPower pages on the Liaoning and Shandong.