China ready to build more carriers

Beijing (China Daily/ANN) - The company that played a key role in equipping China's first aircraft carrier is ready to build more "seagoing airbases", its chairman said.

"China is the only one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council not to have an aircraft carrier wholly developed by itself," said Hu Wenming, chairman of China State Shipbuilding Corp.

The company is a major designer and maker of the aeronautical support system for the Liaoning, China's first aircraft carrier, which was refitted from the Soviet Union's Varyag warship.

The Liaoning was commissioned on September 25.

"We must enhance our independent weapons and equipment research and production capacity to match the country's clout, and independently build our own aircraft carriers," Hu told China Daily during the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China this month.

In his political report to the congress, President Hu Jintao said that it was a key strategy to build a strong national defence commensurate with China's international standing and to meet the needs of its security and development interests.

Hu Wenming, a congress delegate, took the helm of the world's second-largest shipbuilder in July. Hyundai Heavy Industries is the world's largest shipbuilder. He said his company had the responsibility and the capability to provide modern weaponry and equipment to the navy.

The 55-year-old declined to say when and how many carriers his company will build. "That hinges on the central authorities," he said.

But he suggested the country develop carriers using what he called catapult stroke technology on the flight deck. Planes on the Liaoning utilise a ski-jump takeoff, according to earlier reports by the Liberation Army Daily.

"It is very difficult for fixed-wing Air Early Warning aircraft to use a ski-jump takeoff, and on such a carrier you can only use helicopters for early warning, which actually compromises early warning," he said.

The Liaoning is more than 300 metres long and over 70 metres wide. Flight coordination at sea obviously differs fundamentally from land-based runways, Hu said.

He declined to say how many people were involved in the project to equip the carrier, but said a whole research and development institute under his company was engaged in it, and its workforce had doubled in the process.

It took about six years for researchers to develop and install sophisticated technology and key infrastructure needed for the flight deck, such as those to command the launch and recovery operations of carrier-borne aircraft, he added.

Both the software and hardware the company provided have passed simulation tests, and Hu said he is confident they will work in tandem with the aircraft and the carrier.

Hu also said his company is ready to build the vessels for the carrier formation "at any time". Such a formation is generally made up of the carrier itself, destroyers, escorts, supply vessels and submarines, he said.

He revealed that China has recently embarked on its 13th patrol mission in the Gulf of Aden and Somali waters. His company has built 95 per cent of the vessels used for such missions over the past few years. The CEO said he believed the purpose of weapons and equipment development is to preserve international peace so that the country can secure economic and social growth.

China has developed satellites, nuclear and hydrogen bombs to safeguard national security, Hu said.

"Likewise, developing aircraft carriers and other new-generation armament for the navy is tailored for the country's defence and the need to protect marine rights and interests."

In building vessels for civilian use, amid a global downturn in shipbuilding, Hu said his company is changing course, focusing on the higher-end, value-added vessels and marine engineering facilities.

This currently accounts for only 35 per cent of the company's turnover, while those of lower-end contribute to 65 per cent.

Hu pledged to complete structural optimisation and reverse the proportions by 2015, when his company is expected to become the world's largest shipbuilder.

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