The Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy has officially confirmed that it's in the process of building a second aircraft carrier. The PRC made the announcement during a press conference on New Year's Eve.
China adding a second carrier to its arsenal is a big deal – its only other flattop, Liaoning (shown above), is a refitted Soviet Admiral Kuznetsov-class – but it shouldn't necessarily be cause for concern. For one, even with its shortages, the US Navy has five times as many flattops as the PLAN. And they're significantly larger, too. According to the US Naval Institute News, this second Chinese carrier will only displace around 50,000 tons, making it roughly half the size of an American Nimitz-class supercarrier, although it straddles the smaller French Charles de Gaulle and the British Royal Navy's larger HMS Queen Elizabeth.
Like the PLAN's current carrier, the new Type 001A will use a STOBAR setup – short for short takeoff but arrested recovery, which means aircraft use a ramp on the bow for takeoff and hook onto a cable when landing – but will use more mature systems and technology, USNI reports. Even with these improvements and the fact that it will be built by the PRC, the overall template will be similar to the Liaoning, so we wouldn't expect any dramatic visual departures.
The new carrier will fly the PLAN's new Shenyang J-15 Flying Shark, which is basically a rip off of Russia's Sukhoi Su-33 Flanker with Chinese-specific engines, radars, and weaponry. Based on the original Su-27, the Su-33/J-15 is roughly equivalent to fourth-generation, carrier-based fighters, like the US F/A-18 Super Hornet and Russia's own MiG-29K.