China's second aircraft carrier can carry at least 36 domestically developed J-15 fighter jets, some 50 percent more than the country's first, state broadcaster reported on Tuesday.
China's first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, can carry 24 J-15 fighter jets, China Central Television (CCTV) reported, noting the new ship's increased number of fighter jets will add to its already considerable capability.
Although the second carrier known as the Type 001A is similar to the Liaoning, it has an optimized flight deck, reduced weapon areas and a smaller superstructure with added deck areas, Li Jie, a Beijing-based naval expert, told the Global Times on Tuesday, noting that it also has an enlarged hanger, but reduced space for missile storage compared to the Liaoning.
These extra areas allow the new carrier to carry 50 percent more J-15 fighter jets, Li said.
The 24 J-15s of the Liaoning could be a limit factor as a regional combat might require about 40 aircraft in order to seize air supremacy, according to Li. The 36 fighter jets on the Type 001A would greatly expand its combat capability, he said.
In addition to the 36 J-15 fighter jets, the medium-sized Type 001A can carry other types of aircraft including helicopters, analysts said.
The US operates much larger aircraft carriers, including the Nimitz class which can carry about 60 aircraft, while the country's latest Ford class can carry about 75.
Hu Wenming, chairman of China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation and head of China's aircraft carrier program, said "China now has a mature development and construction team, and the average age of team members is only 36," CCTV reported.
"Whatever type of aircraft carrier our country wants to develop in the future, we can make it on our own," Hu said, noting that the team can build any other type of warship given its current expertise.
It took only 26 months to build and launch the Type 001A, which is China's first domestically developed aircraft carrier, almost half of the time for a foreign aircraft carrier of similar type to finish construction, CCTV reported.
The Type 001A was launched in April 2017 and has undertaken six sea trials since May 2018.
It is reportedly conducting its seventh sea trial, after setting sail on August 1. There are no signs the ship has returned to its dock as of press time.
Li said the latest, lengthy sea trial could be in preparation for its final delivery to the Chinese Navy.