China’s First Aircraft Carrier: Shandong

Shandong is a first-generation Chinese aircraft carrier that was launched on 26 April 2017 for the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). It is the country’s second aircraft carrier after the completion of Liaoning, and the first built domestically. The ship is powered by conventional oil-fired boilers driving eight steam turbines derived from the Soviet-designed examples installed on Liaoning and it measures about 315 metres (1,033 ft) long, with a displacement of about 55,000 tonnes (66,000 – 70,000 loaded).

Shandong was constructed by the Dalian Shipbuilding Industry, part of the China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation, in Dalian, Liaoning province, China, although the Chinese government did not publicly confirm the ship’s existence until construction was well underway.

Unlike its Soviet-built predecessor, the Shandong is China’s first domestically built carrier. Both carriers are similar in size and use a STOBAR (Short Take-Off But Arrested Recovery) system for the launch and recovery of aircraft. Although similar to the Liaoning, the Shandong features some notable enhancements and represents an important step in China’s developing aircraft carrier program. For example, the Shandong carrier’s ski jump has an angle of 12.0° instead of the 14.0° on the Liaoning. This is an angle ideal for launching the Shenyang J-15 fighter. Together with the enlarged hangar, the island which has been made smaller by 10%, and extended on sponsons in the aft-starboard quarter, space has been freed up allowing for up to eight more aircraft and helicopters to be carried. The island includes a second glazed deck which permits the bridge and flight control areas to be separate creating greater operational efficiency.

Shandong, like its predecessor, uses the simpler “short take-off but arrested recovery” (STOBAR) launch and recovery system. Future Chinese carriers, such as the Type 003 aircraft carrier, are planned to use an Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) that allows the launch of heavier and more advanced aircraft such as the Shenyang J-31 or the Chengdu J-20.

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