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China aircraft carrier: What does China’s third aircraft carrier’s sea trials mean for India

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China’s third aircraft carrier, Fujian, embarked on its maiden trials last week, marking a significant moment in China’s naval expansion efforts aimed at challenging the US’s global presence. Named after the Fujian province, the carrier is the largest and most advanced Chinese aircraft carrier ever built.

Testing Reliability and Stability

The Fujian carrier set sail from Shanghai’s Jiangnan Shipyard, with the trials primarily focused on testing the reliability and stability of its propulsion and electrical systems, as reported by state news agency Xinhua.The trials are expected to last almost two years, with the carrier slated for induction into the fleet in another five years. China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has been described as the “largest navy” in the world, surpassing the US with over 370 battleships, according to the US Department of Defense.

More Heavy, More Advanced
Weighing in at 79,000 tons, the Fujian carrier is expected to carry the most potent fighter jet launch system, the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS). Currently, the world’s largest aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald R Ford, also uses the EMALS launch system. In contrast, the other Chinese aircraft carriers, Liaoning and Shandong, use the ski-jump system.

China operates only the Chengdu J-15, known as the ‘Flying Shark’, for its carrier-based operations. This fourth-generation fighter jet is deployed on its STOBAR carriers. However, the US has critiqued its range and payload limitations in operations from carriers equipped with ski ramps rather than catapults.China’s Naval Expansion
China’s naval expansion began in the 1990s, shifting focus from the PLA to a more robust naval force capable of conducting out-of-area operations. This shift was driven by China’s economic growth, making it a global economic player and manufacturing hub. The PLAN has transitioned into a Blue Water navy, capable of projecting power far from its shores.

China’s modernization efforts, which began three decades ago, have focused on ships, aircraft, weaponry, and creating naval doctrines. The country’s white paper on Defence in 2015 emphasized safeguarding the Sea Lines of Communication (SLOC) as vital to its national interests, particularly in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

India’s Third Aircraft Carrier
India’s indigenous aircraft carrier-2 (IAC-2) is expected to be a repeat order of INS Vikrant. With a hold on the construction of IAC II, India is considering a repeat order for IAC I to capitalize on the expertise gained in building it. INS Vikrant and INS Vikramaditya are built on the STOBAR platform and house MiG-29K fighter jets, with the naval version of Rafale and Tejas expected to replace them.

The QUAD alliance between the US, India, Australia, and Japan, along with India’s regular multilateral exercises in the Indo-Pacific region, ensures a regional presence and dominance.

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