Naval Air: February 13, 2004

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Publications in China report that China is building, with the assistance of Russia, three aircraft carriers. Called Project 9935, the ships are probably based on a Russian Nevskoye Design Bureau design contracted for in 1994. An article published in China says that the final design decision was made by Hudong Shipyard, Shanghai in 1999. The ship is thought to be a modified Russian Admiral Ghorshkov carrier to Chinese specifications. The ship is scaled up only about 6 percent.

Significant changes are the mounting of all point defenses and associated fire control systems, the mounting of a steam catapult on the angled flight deck, and modification/updating of the electronic suite. The Chinese article says that formal authorization to build a carrier was made in 1992. This apparently refers to legislation passed in that year which authorized two aircraft carriers. Three covered graving docks were constructed at Shangahi and eyewitness reports indicate all three now have carriers building in them. Another source says the lead ship launched in 2002 and was expected to complete about 2004. The Chinese article says the lead ship should commission in 2006 and that a battle group should form by 2010. These appear to be very conservative dates. Evidence strongly suggests that these ships are intended to be a technical surprise in several senses, including initial operating dates. The 2006 date is more realistic for the first carrier group. All three ships could be operational with battle groups by 2008-2010. The Chinese article says that maintenance facilities have been built at Shanghai, Dailan and Zhejiang. From this, and PLAN (Peoples Liberation Army Navy) organization, it appears each fleet will be allocated a single carrier. 

The operational concept of these aircraft carriers differs from that of other nations. Aircraft carriers are not seen as the core of the fleet. Rather submarines are. Instead, carriers have a primary fleet defense mission: to provide air and anti-submarine defense for surface forces, especially amphibious flotillas and logistic convoys. There is a significant secondary offensive strike mission, indicated by the mounting of SSMs and also inherent in the ability of fighter-bombers to carry offensive weapons. However, it appears that the carriers are not intended for distant power projection operations in the sense US CVNs are. Designed to operate near PLAN bases, they are to be offshore aviation platforms for a mainly land based naval air force. This may mean the aviation staying power of these ships is much greater than would normally be expected if they operated dedicated air groups. Further, in the absence of the need to buy aircraft and train crews for them, the unit cost of the carriers is lower than otherwise would be the case, while the cost of lost maintenance assets is also less, should a carrier be sunk. This is an imaginative, but very reasonable, application of naval air power to the essentially regional requirements of the PLAN.  However, the Chinese air force (PLAAF) is buying carrier capable aircraft and training pilots to use them. 

General Characteristics:

Full Load Displacement: 48,000 tons (stated)
Standard Displacement: 44,700 tons (estimated from Orel data)
Light Displacement: 35,000 tons (estimated from Orel data)
Maximum Displacement: 52,750 tons (estimated from Orel data)
Overall Dimensions: 288x71x9 meters (calculated from Gorshkov data)
Waterline Dimensions: 254x33x9 meters (calculated from Gorshkov data)
Flight Deck Dimensions: 288x67.5 meters (calculated from Gorshkov data)
Angled Flight Deck Dimensions: 220 meters long (standard length); 6.5 degree angle
Hanger Dimensions: 144x68 meters = about 9,800 sq. meters (estimated from Orel data)
Draft: 9 meters nominal, 10 meters maximum (same for all classes in design series)
Full Speed: 28 knots (stated; confirmed by calculation from Gorshkov data)
Machinery: Type: Geared Steam Turbines driving 4 shafts (same for all classes in series)
Machinery: Turbines: 4xRussian TU-12 55,000 hp maximum (49,750 hp sustained)
Machinery: Boilers: 8xRussian KVG-4 turbopressurized (640 kg/cm sq., 500 deg. C)
Machinery: Total SHP: 220,000 hp maximum (199,000 hp sustained)
Ski Jump: 15 degrees, 2 runs of 105 meters and 1 run of 170 meters (estimated from Orel
data and from model of class) 
Arrester gear: 3 wire, 14 meter spacing
Catapult: 1 (on angled deck) about 85 meters long of about 30 tons capacity (estimated
from model of class and maximum weight of Su-27 aircraft family)
Hanger Capacity: 30 Su-27 class aircraft (stated to be 30-40 but calculated lower from
hanger deck dimension estimate and aircraft data) Note 1
Air Group: 30-40 (stated) See Section III [No evidence of dedicated air groups forming]
Anti-Shipping SSM: 8xUnknown. (stated) Probably YJ-12. Possibly C-803 in lead unit. 
Point Defense SAM: 8xLY-60N (Aspede) mountings, 24 missiles each (2 per quarter) 
Point Defense Guns: 12xType 69 Twin Gatling Guns (3 per quarter, 5 km range)
Early Warning Radar: Russian Top Pair 3D MR-800 Voskhod
Air Search Radar: Russian Top Plate 3D (dual radar antenna, back to back) D/E band
Surface Search/Air Search Radar: Type 363 E/F band
Surface Search Radar: Type 364 (ESR 1) I band; Navigation: 2xDecca 1290 I band
Aircraft Control Radar: 2xFly Trap B G/H band; Tacan: Cake Stand 
Target Acquisition Radar: 2xRussian MR 700 Frecat
Fire Control Radar (Missile): 4xChinese LL-1
Fire Control Radar (Gun): 4xChinese GDG-775 (radar/tv/laser/ir) directors
Passive ECM/ESM: Type 826 plus 2 PJ-46 decoy launchers and 8 Chaff launchers
Laser Warning: 6xHalf Cup 
Active ECM: Type 984 I band jammer; Type 985 E/F band jammer
SATCOM: Thomson CSF Tavitac
Sonar: DUBV-23 (hull mounted search and attack, medium frequency) (PLAN standard)

Note 1: The hanger has four tracks for moving aircraft (same for all classes in series) -- Sid Trevethan

 


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