The People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is set to get its first domestically manufactured aircraft carrier. As per the reports in Chinese media, it can carry as much as 36 fighter aircraft after its commissioning. The newly built Type 001A is an upgraded version of the Liaoning, a former Soviet Kuznetsov-class carrier. Type 001A has much smaller control tower "island" but greater displacement. "The two carriers look similar, but from a design and research and development perspective they are essentially different," Hu Wenming, chief of the ship's construction programme said. The new aircraft carrier has a full displacement of 70,000 tonnes, in comparison to Liaoning's 58,600 tonnes.
The Type 001A has a Type 346 "Star of the Sea" digital radar system unlike its predecessor the Liaoning. Its hangar is more spacious which can carry 12 more J-15 fighters than its sister ship. The Liaoning can carry 14 helicopters along with a crew of about 2,000. Both the carriers are powered by four-shaft conventional steam turbines. However, the Liaoning has a higher top speed with 32 knots in comparison to Type 001A's 32 knots. Earlier this month, the Type 001A has gone through its seventh trial in Yellow sea. As per a report published in the South China Morning post, all routine activities including basic ship propulsion and aircraft operations were assessed during the earlier trail.
With the aspirations of becoming a blue water navy, China has been working over decades to construct its own aircraft carrier. As a part of its plan, China bought 4 aircraft to train its pilots and after years of research and studies, the carrier is ready to be launched soon. Song Zhongping, a military commentator based in Hong Kong said, "China has accumulated more experience with the Liaoning and that has helped in the construction and operation of the Type 001A." China bought The Liaoning, formerly the Varyag, from Ukraine in 1998 as the unfinished second ship of its class. State-owned CSIC refurbish the vessel from 2005 at its Dalian shipyard and delivered it to People's Liberation Army Navy in 2012.