China's first homemade aircraft carrier is seen during its launch in Dalian on April 26, 2017. Photo: Reuters
China's first homemade aircraft carrier is seen during its launch in Dalian on April 26, 2017. Photo: Reuters

The construction of China’s first indigenous aircraft carrier – known as Type 002 and yet to be christened – is “almost 90% complete”, state broadcaster CCTV has said, citing a Navy admiral.

The carrier’s drydock was flooded for the first time in April, and once structural work is completed, the vessel will embark on her maiden voyage from its home port of Dalian in the northeast to the Yellow Sea for operational tests, evaluation of equipment and other trials.

Video clips and images released by CCTV show technicians and workers on Type 002’s flight deck and island control structure, with a TV commentator emphasizing the highly digitized, dual-band Star of the Sea 346A phased-array radar system that is being installed.

China’s first locally-made carrier is seen at the Dalian Shipyard. Photo: CCTV

Type 002 has a full displacement of 70,000 tons and is a Kuznetsov-class vessel like ‘Liaoning’, the carrier China bought from Ukraine. The locally made ship is heavily modeled on the Soviet-built carrier.

The PLA Navy admiral also confirmed that despite being a conventionally powered carrier, Type 002 will be equipped with electromagnetic catapults with linear motors to accelerate and put the vessel up to high speeds, a technical feat made possible by the ship’s more efficient power and propulsion systems.

The Liaoning currently uses steam and a ski-catapult launch system, and its main drawback is that jet fighters and pilots have to withstand huge counterforce and inertia while getting airborne or landing.

“Our technicians are now cracking the hurdle of energy transmission and conservation and once that challenge is surmounted, we’ll then be able to build electromagnetic launch systems,” a PLA source told CCTV.

Instead of the conventional steam piston drive, the new system launches carrier-based aircraft using a linear motor drive, accelerating aircraft while putting less stress on their airframes. Currently, only the US Navy’s brand new Gerald R Ford supercarrier has such operational electromagnetic launch pads.

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