• Construction of the CNS Shandong as of October 2016.

Construction of the CNS Shandong as of October 2016. (Photo : PLAN)

The People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) intends to build up to six aircraft carriers, one or two of which will probably be nuclear powered, so it can secure China's maritime dominion over Asia despite the superiority of the more powerful U.S. Navy.

Admiral Yin Zhuo, a Senior Researcher at the PLAN Navy Equipment Research Center, said from five to six aircraft carriers are necessary "in order to protect China's territories and overseas interests."

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"China needs two carrier strike groups in the West Pacific Ocean and two in the Indian Ocean. So we need at least five to six aircraft carriers," according to Admiral Yin.

PLAN is a third of the way towards a six carrier fleet with its second carrier, the CNS Shandong (CV-17), scheduled to begin sea trials by 2019. Construction of this carrier, also referred to as the Type 001A, is expected to be completed within the year.

Chinese state-owned TV recently broadcast news the Shandong's scaffold has been removed and red undercoat painted below the ship's waterline. The Shandong is being built in Dalian in northeastern Liaoning Province. State TV said the launching ceremony for China's second carrier "will soon be held" but without giving a date.

It noted the 001A is China-built and its design, combat capability and technologies will be much more advanced than China's only carrier, the CNS Liaoning (CV-16), which China bought as a hulk from Ukraine and later on refurbished.

Military analysts say the Shandong will be more 'humanized,' meaning all of its crew will enjoy a more comfortable and modern environment compared to the austere quarters on the Liaoning.

It will take at least two years after the launch for Shandong to be commissioned into the PLAN. The outfitting stage between launch and commissioning will see the Shandong take on all its weapons and equipment, including its radar system; air defense system and communications system.

Once outfitting is complete, the carrier and its aircraft will be tested. Commissioning will follow.

PLAN reported construction of the Shandong is "on schedule" with most of its construction and design work completed. The hull has already been assembled.

"It will take about one to two years to carry out functional debugging of its devices, weapons and equipment. The new aircraft carrier can begin sea trials by early 2019," believes Li Jie, a naval military expert.

The Shandong will displace 50,000 tons. Its aircraft will still use the ski-jump method and will take-off from a ski ramp on the bow, a method also used on the Liaoning.