The Liaoning, China's first aircraft carrier, at its home port of Qingdao, Shandong province. (Photo/CNS)
China plans to build four aircraft carriers in total to boost its naval power and exert its maritime claims, according to a Russian media report.
Official reports in January said that the PLA plans to have at least two aircraft carriers by 2015 or 2016 and said the country's second aircraft carrier is indeed under construction as previous unofficial reports had claimed. The country plans to build four aircraft carriers in total, the state newswire Xinhua citing a Russian weekly newspaper as reporting.
China commissioned the Liaoning, a refitted Soviet-era carrier purchased from Ukraine, in 2012. Future carriers are expected to be built domestically and take the Liaoning as their blueprint, at least initially.
The report further said construction appears to be behind schedule, but Beijing has mapped out a clear plan for its development. China's aircraft carrier program is set to be implemented in two phases, the report said, the aim being to build two carriers to establish carrier battle fleets to operate while two more advanced carriers are developed.
The report said the first two planned conventionally powered aircraft carriers may have a displacement of between 50,000 to 55,000 tonnes. The second phase may see the construction of two nuclear-powered carriers with an electromagnetic catapult system and displacement of 65,000 tonnes. These could possibly enter service by the late 2020s.
In order to carry out the second phase, the government approved a plan in February to build vessels that use nuclear power, the report said.
However, the Ministry of National Defense denied claims that it has plans to build more aircraft carriers at present.
The Communist Party secretary of Liaoning province, Wang Min, had said in January that an aircraft carrier was being built in Dalian, the port city where the Liaoning carrier was refitted. But reports related to Wang's remarks were promptly deleted from the internet for unknown reasons.