The Type 001 is a class of aircraft carrier currently in service with People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). The People's Republic of China (PRC) maintains one ship of the class: the Liaoning. Originally laid down in 1985 for the Soviet Navy, the carrier is based on a Kuznetsov class aircraft cruiser.
Due to the Type 001’s age and the PLAN’s lack of experience, the Liaoning is limited in its ability to successfully compete with its American counterparts. Without logistics aircraft, experienced sailors, aircraft catapults, and a stable power supply, the Type 001 is better suited to support UN peacekeeping missions and training operations that fall below the standards of a high-intensity conflict. The Intelligence Ledger assesses that Liaoning will serve as a solid base for the PRC to learn from and project naval presence rather than a tool for achieving victory in battle.
Country: People's Republic of China
Entered Service: 2012
Deployment Endurance: 95 Days
Fixed Wing Aircraft: J-15
Helicopters: Z-8, KA-31, Z-20F
Armament: 30MM CIWS (3X), HHQ-10 Short Range Air Defense Missile System (4X), ASW Rocket Launcher (2X)
Max Speed: 29 Knots
Steam Turbines: 37.3 MW (4X)
Length: 305 M
Draught: 11 M
Beam: 67 M
Displacement (Full Load): 59,400 Tons
Acquisition & Service History
As previously mentioned, the Liaoning was originally laid down in 1985 for the Soviet Navy as a Kuznetsov Class aircraft cruiser. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, work on the vessel ceased and the Ukrainian government inherited ownership rights. Although the ship was nearly complete, the Ukrainian government lacked valid reasons and necessary funds to continue construction. As such, it was determined that the best course of action was to put the floating airport up for sale.
In 1998, the vessel was sold to an obscure production company based in Maccu for less than $20,000,000 (USD). The contract signed between the company and Ukrainian government stipulated that the carrier was not to be used in any way for military purposes. However, a quick investigation revealed that the company was a front for the PRC. The Intelligence Ledger assesses that the Ukrainian government was aware of this fact, but wanted to be free of the vessel regardless of the buyer.
After overcoming numerous logistical challenges, the unfinished ship arrived in the PRC in 2002. The PLAN quickly took control and immediately set about planning for its restoration and completion. Within four years, the vessel was fully operational and began participating in training exercises off the coast of mainland China. In 2012, the ship was commissioned as the Liaoning and designated as an active service vessel.
The Type 001 operates a wide variety of airframes, including helicopters and airplanes. For airborne early warning (AEW) systems and anti-submarine warfare, the carrier relies on Z-8, Z-20F Seahawk, and Ka-31 helicopters. When threats present themselves over the horizon, the Liaoning can utilize its air wing of 24 Shenyang J-15 Flying Shark fighters.
The US Department of Defense, Defense Intelligence Agency, and Central Intelligence Agency have all argued that the Type 001's use of a ski catapult means that J-15s launched from the carrier have below full fuel capacity and armament in order to get off the deck. This limitation is expected to be resolved in new carriers due to the use of steam catapults or electromagnetic aircraft launch systems (EMALS).
The Type 001 possesses respectable defensive armament. For air defense, the aircraft carrier is armed with the Type 1030 close-in weapon system (CIWS) and Flying Leopard 3000 Naval (FL-3000N) missile system. Although sub hunting is not its main job, the carrier also boasts anti-submarine warfare (ASW) rocket launchers of an unknown type.