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China releases news photos of PLA Navy aircraft carrier Fujian.

| Naval News Navy 2024

According to information published by Global Times on January 3, 2023, the Chinese State Television has published a report on the PLA Navy's aircraft carrier Fujian and its progress.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 Chinese PLA Navy's aircraft carrier Fujian. (Picture source: Chinese TV)

Captain Yin Hongxin emphasized the 2024 target to establish the Fujian's combat capabilities, aligning with the centennial goal of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) in 2027.

Observations from the CCTV footage suggest the removal of work sheds covering the electromagnetic catapults on the Fujian's flight deck, a key feature of the carrier. A full-sized aircraft mock-up was also visible, though its exact type sparked debate among observers, ranging from a possible J-15 to a next-generation stealth fighter jet, potentially the J-35. Despite earlier predictions of a 2023 voyage test, the Fujian's complex new technologies, especially the electromagnetic catapults, necessitated prolonged testing.

Electromagnetic catapults

An electromagnetic catapult, often referred to as an Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS), is a type of aircraft launching system developed primarily for use on aircraft carriers. It represents a significant technological leap from traditional steam catapults, providing more control and efficiency in launching aircraft.

Traditionally, aircraft carriers have used steam-powered catapults to launch aircraft. These systems rely on high-pressure steam to drive a piston that propels the aircraft forward. However, steam catapults have limitations in terms of the range of aircraft they can effectively launch, the wear and tear on both the planes and the catapult, and the extensive maintenance they require.

The electromagnetic catapult, in contrast, utilizes a linear induction motor. This motor generates a magnetic field that propels a carriage along a track. Unlike the steam catapult, EMALS can control the acceleration of the aircraft more precisely, ensuring a smoother and more adaptable launch. This precision is particularly beneficial for launching both heavier and lighter aircraft, something steam catapults struggle with.

In terms of efficiency, electromagnetic catapults are a leap forward. They are more energy-efficient compared to their steam counterparts, translating to cost savings and reduced resource consumption over time.

Countries with EMALS-equipped carriers can project more power and have a greater range of options in terms of the aircraft they can deploy, which could alter strategic calculations in various regions of the world.

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