Liaoning, China's first aircraft carrier. (Photo/CNS)
China will be able to form two carrier battle groups in five years following the momentum created by the country's first operational aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, says the Beijing-based China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation.
The Ministry of Science and Technology has launched a program called Project 863 to research and develop a nuclear reactor for carriers, reports our sister newspaper Want Daily.
General Du Wenlong from the Beijing-based Academy of Military Science said nuclear reactors will extend the range of aircraft carrier operations and that nuclear-powered carriers are much more reliable than conventional steam-powered ships. Du said China's second aircraft carrier will likely be powered by a nuclear reactor.
While the Moscow-based Russian Military Review predicted that nuclear-powered carriers will enter the PLA Navy by 2020, information from Beijing suggests they could show up as early as 2018. For aircraft taking off from conventional carriers, the combat radius is measured in hundreds of kilometers from shore. After a nuclear-powered carrier enters service, the combat radius for Chinese carrier-based fighters will be extended to 1,000 kilometers.
Du Wenlong 杜文龍