THE NUCLEAR SUBMARINE ADVOCATES ARE STILL IN DOMINANT
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Su27K (Kanwa photo via KNAAPO)
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Kuznetsov (Photo by A.Pinkov)
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Bazan (Photo by A.Pinkov)
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SU33 (Kanwa photo)
The defense minister Chi Haotian emphasized publicly at Zhuhai Air Show 1996 that no construction program of aircraft carrier would be carried out during the ninth five-year plan, while KANWA's information shows that China has started to build the new-generation SSBN. There will be a higher risk in technique and finance to build nuclear submarine and aircraft carrier at the same time, judging from the present resources allocation among China's different armed services.
There are some questionable descriptions in Hong Kong media report. First, how could China construct a 48000 ton 'light' aircraft carrier over three years? China spent three years to build LUHAI class No. 167 destroyer, while Russia spent four years to build its first Kiev aircraft carrier.
Secondly, it is more bizarre to say China's aircraft carrier will be armed with SU30MK. SU30MKK is a ground-based attacker and the Russia's naval version SU33 fighter for aircraft carrier needs a considerable reconstruction in the body structure design. There are no indications that China asks Moscow to do any similar reconstruction on the SU27SK and SU30MKK would be purchased later on.
Moreover, this year is the last year of the ninth five-year plan. The key military project during the five-year plan is usually started in the beginning or the middle stage of the term, in order to utilize funds and technique more efficiently. For instance, this can be seen in the introduction of SU27SK assembly. Therefore, it is strange to start an aircraft carrier construction in the last several months of a five-year period. The possibility of a last minute budget increase can also be ruled out. There is no hurry to construct aircraft carrier if it not for the end of operation against Taiwan.
Also, the Hong Kong report claims that China's would-be aircraft carrier will be equipped with 24 VLS for launching cruise missile and the Russia type Top plate air/surface search radar. As is well known, when a country is to construct its first aircraft carrier, it would adopt the radar and weapon systems which have stood test well in order to reduce any risk. Russia's Kuznetsov did adopt 'Top plate', SS-N-19 SSM, and SA-N-9 SAM, but these radar and weapon systems had been adopted before by other heavy cruiser and destroyer. SLAVA and UDALOY-2 were equipped with Top plate radar, KIROV with SS-N-19, and UDALOY with SA-N-9. China has a very similar idea of warship construction. HQ7 SAM, TYPE 76 A 37 mm anti-aircraft gun adopted by LUHAI had been used by LUHU. Rice Shield air/surface radar was also trail-used by LUDA-3.
Although Top plate radar is adopted by Sovremenny, it is still an unfamiliar system for the Chinese navy at present. Why does China take a risk to install a Top plate on its brand-new aircraft carrier?
KANWA's basic understanding is that, at the moment, the Chinese navy is still considering whether including aircraft carrier construction in the tenth five-year plan or not.