How Advanced Is China’s Third Aircraft Carrier?

How Advanced Is China’s Third Aircraft Carrier?
How Advanced Is China’s Third Aircraft Carrier?
How Advanced Is China’s Third Aircraft Carrier? Top

    Aircraft carriers are one of the most visible symbols of a country’s military power. China is among a small handful of countries that possess multiple aircraft carriers. China reportedly began construction on its third carrier, the Fujian, at Shanghai’s Jiangnan Shipyard in 2017, and on June 17, 2022, the carrier was launched to great fanfare.

    The carrier began its first round of sea trials in May 2024, a key step to ensure its readiness before it is commissioned into the People’s Liberation Army Navy. Once operational, the Fujian will be considerably more advanced than China’s second carrier, the Shandong, and its first carrier, the Liaoning.

    Key Facts

    • The Fujian features a “catapult assisted take-off but arrested recovery” (CATOBAR) launch system that will enable it to launch heavier and larger fixed-wing aircraft. China’s first two aircraft carriers rely on less advanced ski jump-style “short take-off, barrier-arrested recovery” (STOBAR) systems. 
    • The Fujian’s catapults are powered by an electromagnetic system similar to that of the U.S. Navy’s Gerald R. Ford-class carriers. This represents a leapfrogging past more conventional steam-powered catapults. 
    • The Fujian is larger than its predecessors, which will enable it to support a more robust airwing. It displaces roughly 80,000 tonnes, compared to the Liaoning’s 60,000 tonnes and the Shandong’s 66,000. The Fujian is also considerably larger than France’s Charles de Gaulle carrier (42,000 tonnes) and the United Kingdom’s HMS Queen Elizabeth (65,000 tonnes), but smaller than the U.S. Navy’s Ford-class carrier (100,000 tonnes). 
    • While the Fujian will be more advanced than its Chinese predecessors, it will still be conventionally powered rather than nuclear-powered. Meanwhile, all U.S. carriers and France’s Charles de Gaulle are nuclear-powered.

    How the Fujian Stacks Up

    The table below provides a breakdown of some of the key characteristics of each of China’s aircraft carriers. To lean more, explore these ChinaPower pages on the Liaoning and Shandong.