China plans to launch its third aircraft carrier within the next two years and it would be combat-ready by 2025, official media reported on Thursday, two days after Beijing operationalised its 2nd aircraft carrier.
The third aircraft carrier may have electromagnetic catapult and stealth fighter jets, a report by Ordnance Industry Science Technology, a Xi'an-based periodical focused on the national defence industry said.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has launched the country's second aircraft carrier on Tuesday from the Sanya naval base, located in the South China Sea coast.
The ship named after China's Shandong province is the first domestically-built ship. China currently has one aircraft carrier Liaoning, a re-fit of the Soviet era ship which was commissioned in 2012.
Official media reports said that 'Shandong', with a displacement of around 40,000-60,000 tonnes is bigger than Liaoning, and could house 36 fighter jets compared to 24 by Liaoning besides helicopters.
Official media reports say China plans to acquire about five to six aircraft carriers in the coming years to project power far from its shores.
The technological advances will make the third carrier significantly different from the previous two and more powerful than them combined, the magazine quoted Zhu Yingfu, chief designer of China's first aircraft carrier Liaoning as saying.
To launch the aircraft, it is likely the third carrier will use three to four electromagnetic catapults instead of the old-fashioned ski-jump deck, the report said.
Zhu said China is developing both a steam-powered and an electromagnetic catapult.
By installing the catapults, the third carrier will gain amplified capability for releasing aircraft while also enabling it to send large attack drones and fixed-wing early-warning aircraft into the sky, state-run Global Times reported on Thursday.
The third carrier will also likely get fifth-generation stealth fighter jets, it said.
Development of a catapult-based stealth fighter jet is expected to finish within five years, moving in tandem with the construction of the third carrier, the magazine’s report said.