China Claims Its New Carrier Is The World’s Largest Conventionally Powered Warship

A behind-the-scenes glimpse at China’s newest aircraft carrier, the Fujian, which the official broadcaster describes as the “world’s largest conventionally powered warship,” was just made public by CCTV. CCTV emphasized the ship’s sophisticated capabilities in a first-of-its-kind public evaluation, highlighting its electromagnetic catapult system—a trait that was previously believed to be exclusive to nuclear-powered carriers. In a program on Thursday, CCTV said, “The Fujian is currently the world’s largest known conventionally powered aircraft carrier by displacement,” highlighting the fact that a larger displacement usually translates into more combat strength.

The dockyard first launched the Fujian, China’s third and first aircraft carrier built on the country’s soil, in June 2022. Similar in displacement to the US Navy’s defunct Kitty Hawk-class supercarriers, the Fujian is said to weigh 80,000 tonnes. With a size of almost 85,000 tonnes, the USS America was the largest vessel of this class. After a successful eight-day initial test sail in May, Fujian finished its second sea trial earlier this month.

Notably, the Fujian is China’s first aircraft carrier equipped with electromagnetic catapults. This advancement enables more frequent aircraft launches and the lifting off of heavier planes, a capability currently shared only by the nuclear-powered USS Gerald R. Ford. CCTV highlighted that the Fujian’s design challenges the notion that only nuclear-powered carriers can utilize electromagnetic catapults, thus enhancing the combat capabilities of future Chinese carriers.

The program revealed that information about the new carrier-based aircraft for Fujian will be released soon and showcased the ship’s maneuverability by demonstrating a sharp turn that minimized its wake, reducing the likelihood of enemy detection and attack. Military analyst Cao Weidong explained that the Fujian’s design complexity stems from the need to ensure sufficient electricity supplies for all onboard systems. According to the South China Morning Post, Weidong noted that the warship can carry more planes and that its catapults can launch fixed-wing early warning aircraft, enhancing airborne time, radar performance, and command capabilities.

Weidong also highlighted that the catapults allow warplanes to take off with full fuel loads and ammunition, reducing the need for refueling aircraft and freeing up space for more drones, transport planes, and electronic warfare aircraft. He suggested that it might take up to two years to complete trials for the Fujian and hinted at the possibility of the PLA Navy building more aircraft carriers, potentially powered by nuclear energy.

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