December 3, 2012:
Chinese media are reporting that another Chinese aircraft carrier is being built. The Chinese military responded that there were no additional carriers under construction. But 18 months ago the commander of the armed forces said more carriers would be built but that no more would be said about that until the carriers were finished. Construction may not have begun yet, meaning both pronouncements would be true. Moreover it’s difficult to hide the construction of an aircraft carrier.
The first Chinese aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, is the largest ship in the Chinese Navy and it is huge. It is a 65,000 ton, 305 meter (999 feet) long ship that has already spent over a year on sea trials. During that time Liaoning was at sea for about four months. Last year China confirmed that the Liaoning will primarily be a training carrier. The Chinese apparently plan to station up to 24 jet fighters and 26 helicopters on the Liaoning and use the ship to train pilots and other specialists for four or more additional carriers. It would be prudent to get some experience with Liaoning before finalizing the design of a new class of carriers and beginning construction.