China Plans to Build 4 Aircraft Carriers

LiaoningChinese leaders plan on building four aircraft carriers for its navy, a Chinese official said in comments that have since been removed from a Chinese media site.

Liaoning party chief Wang Min said the Chinese navy had started work on the country’s second aircraft carrier and had plans for four, according to the South China Morning Post. Earlier this year, Chinese officials explained the country’s need for more than two aircraft carriers.

“If China had only one aircraft carrier, it would not conform to China’s status as a world power, nor to the demands imposed by the length of the coastline. Considering China’s ocean environment, two aircraft carriers are not enough to safeguard marine interests. If China has three aircraft carriers, they can maintain a sustained combat capability: maintenance, safeguarding and patrol respectively,” Chinese military expert Du Wenlong told the Chinese state media arm, the People’s Daily.

The Chinese unveiled their first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, in 2011. China has since incorporate the carrier into’s overall military strategy. In 2012, the Chinese successfully complete its first landing of a fighter aircraft on the ship when a J-15 landed in November on the Liaoning.

China bought the Liaoning from Ukraine more than a decade ago. China Vessel Construction Industry has since refurbished the Russian vessel.

Work has started on the second aircraft carrier, which the Chinese are building themselves. Min confirmed that construction continues on the carrier in the Dalian shipyard with plans to have it completed by 2020.

It’s unclear when the Chinese could complete construction on the fourth carrier, but a four carrier navy would present quite a power in the global seas. As pointed out by the U.S. Naval Institute, a four carrier navy would allow the Chinese to keep one carrier on patrol at all time.

About the Author

Michael Hoffman
Michael Hoffman is the executive editor at Tandem NSI and a contributor to He can be reached at
  • Lance

    Proves the whole doctrine the pentagon has is crap. The Army is pure waste opf money GCV MHS and JLTV isn’t needed for America’s defense. We need more carriers escort destroyers and a Fleet Defender fighter like the F-14 was to protect the navy and more Hornets to have Harpoon anti ship missiles. The JSF is none of that and has no anti ship weapons in its payload.

    If we let the Army get there crap over what the Navy needs like the old Battleship crowd did to carriers in the 30s we can have a Chinese Perl Harbor in a few decades.

  • probably use Russian designs, since them building a Nimitz class would be way too huge or maybe old Forrestal class type CVs, but smells like WW2 again but Japan had far more carriers then vs now & none as MSDF since 1945.

    • lib

      There will be catapults on all new carriers.

  • ronaldo

    Oh yeah…..the F-14 crowd is still begging for attention. Will it never end ?

  • tmb2

    Is the ship from Russia or Ukraine?


    They are out for blood they can smell the West weakness, don’t think we can stand down for this one.

  • Nicky

    Looks like the chinese will be looking to build their carriers based on the Russian or old Forrestal class CV.

  • wwjcinAZ

    That’s nice. But without a credible submarine force and anti-submarine capability, the Chinese carriers will have a short but exciting life should hostilities ever take place.

  • They are going to need a lot more than four…

    • lib

      I’d say about 8-10, not including the current one.

    • Guest

      The US is 17 trillion in debt and can no longer afford their massive Military spending.
      China is a rising Economic super power. The dye is cast, this will be an Asian century.
      By 2050, China will be a military super power. The Countries of Western Europe destroyed themselves in the last Century and the US is playing catch up.

      • Xi Jinping, why didn’t you use your name as opposed to hiding behind “Guest”?

        • Guest

          I didn’t know you were an “Expert” on Naval Warfare Major, my bad.

    • Guest

      I didn’t know you were an “Expert” on Naval Warfare Major.
      Why do Military “Experts”always fight the last War? In the 1920-30s, the Military experts wanted more battleships. Aircraft Carriers “won” the War in the Pacific.

      While Aircraft Carriers are still important in protecting power, the Chinese have an anti-ship missile that can hit a moving Aircraft carrier at 900 miles and destroy the ship in the process. (Anti-Ship missile DF-21D) There is no current defense against the DF-21D anti ship missile.

    • Guest

      Actually Major Rod, the surrender of the Japanese in 1945 had everything to do with the powerful Soviet Union entering the Pacific war in Aug of 1945.

      Marshall Vasilevsky’s powerful Soviet Army wing was dealing heavy blows to the Japanese Kwantung Army. The Japanese saw the handwriting on the wall.
      The Japanese knew full well, what the Soviet Military had done in Eastern Europe.
      They didn’t want a repeat.

      It’s not unusual for western military officers, like yourself, to be “short” on Military History and the “clash of Nations’. As noted, I see from past comments, that you
      have very good knowledge of small arms in the US Military. Bone up on your
      Military History and then we can “talk”.

      AN OLD CHINESE PROVERB for You Major Rod – “A rat who gnaws at a cat’s tail invites destruction.”

      • No doubt the Soviet entrance into the Pacific theatre was a factor but to believe it was the decisive one is just revisionism. Chinese history books? The Emperor cited nukes in his speech to the Japanese people not the Soviet intervention.

        I have a pretty good history background. I was in charge of a Combined Arms General Staff College history section once… Thanks for the pointer but I think you’re failing to appreciate the three fingers pointing back at you when you point at someone (I think that’s an American proverb…:)

  • I would think that the Chinese would need to develop a set of naval doctrines with regards to operating aircraft carriers first.

    Secondly, the Chinese has not got the experience in building nor designing aircraft carriers. Is this going to be a copy of the unproven Russian carrier? And building four of them? Four more Liaoning carriers? I would venture that this would be a plan that would be three decades in the making.

    Creating the necessary naval aviation and all the support structures will take time. The AWACS, the anti-sub assets, and more would need to be built too.

    Similarly, creating a carrier group for carriers do not operate in isolation. There would be all the attendant vessels that need to be built and crewed.

    This is a vast undertaking. It would be decades before China has four carriers operational at the same time. By then, the Liaoning would be retired in all probability.

    Would the Chinese economy still be able to support the building of such carriers then? Would there be the political will to build them then?

  • Auyong Ah Meng

    Even if China try anything…

    the US has allies…in South Korea, Japan, vietnam (potentially) etc….the reliable ones…

    While the others in the area do their usual flip and flop routine between the US and China…

    Please don’t discount the above and keep them on-side with the US…

    Else headache.

  • Hialpha

    @Chuang Shyue Chou,

    A very well thought out post. Building a carrier is a MAJOR undertaking, and it’s not just about catapults and radars and stuff, it’s also about fuel tanks, water supply, garbage disposal and food prep etc., that allow 5,000 people to live and work on a carrier. A sustainable, functioning carrier force requires years to mature, and who knows if the Great Chinese contract (read: economic experiment) with their population will prove to last or just be the biggest bubble we’ve ever seen.

    However, the Chinese are great at copying other peoples great ideas and making them work, so who knows what they are capable of.

  • Yaronimo

    As always people dismiss Chinese efforts offhandedly. Then, a few years down the line there’s all this surprise when they pull some next-gen shit out of the bag.

    It’s a shame but you have to take into consideration that they might have the plans for both the Nimtiz and likely the Ford-class as well.

    If there’s one thing the Chinese do better than anyone else is steal military and otherwise sensitive information. Not because they are better at it per se. They just don’t seem to care about getting caught.

  • JimBobJoe

    The USA hasn’t much to show for the Bush defense build up.

    The Reagan build-up gave America a fantastic military where it really cranked out the numbers. The B-1, the Ticonderoga, LA class SSN’s, F-15’s, F-16’s, the M-1 tank, etc…

    Too much of the Bush build-up went into the contractors pockets.

  • eric

    these carriers will be build on a thick layer of good education, motivation, hard work and competitive minds. when did we have that for the last time? if you are shocked by a 4 carrier chinese navy, i would like to hear you scream when they will be the number one world economy.

  • Mark

    They haven’t “built” one yet. Let’s wait till they actually build their first carrier before speculating to much.

  • 3rivershunter

    Will everyone just relax…just look at the flight deck…sweeping upward…when did you last see one of those designs?….1920’s Britain’s very first proto-type carrier. Uumm that’s ninety years ago. Go grap a cup of joe and go back to your morning paper.

    • Thomas L. Nielsen

      “just look at the flight deck…sweeping upward…when did you last see one of those designs?….1920’s Britain’s very first proto-type carrier”

      Invincible Class. Admiral Kuznetsov. Both a bit more recent than the 1920’s.

      Regards & all,

      Thomas L. Nielsen

  • 3rivershunter

    Oh yes, one other thing. They can’t launch planes from the flightdeck, it’s not equipped to do that. It’s nothing more than a parking lot at the moment.

  • BeanBagAdmiral

    Why does china want to use aircraft carriers as coastal defense assets? Or is that just a line they are feeding us?

  • Michael_AF_Ret

    Many valid points have been made about the requirements to successfully deploy a carrier. The baseline is industrial technology and R&D efforts. Both, take huge sums of a Nation’s gross annual earnings. With a central government and power concentrated with a party elite, you have global strategy depending on a cultural belief system. The Central Party remains a communist state. Their attempts at capitalism bring back memories of Carnage & JP Morgan following the Civil War. The government could not control either men as they paid low wages and charged high prices for their product. China always reverse engineers their “leaps” in technology. Original thinking is not condoned. Next time you go to Harbor Freight, pick up a tool. compare the workmanship with what you would get from Craftsman or Snap0n. China’s anti-satellite program is a copy of America’s programs over the years. Four carriers, not super carriers, with copied technology will take decades. A carrier battle group with layers of protection, logistics support, and many friendly ports through out the world. To be more than chess pieces on the seas of Asia will require a political flexibility and spending enormous sums of money. If we don’t get another Obama and Liberal Democrats, we can keep in front with a 50 year technology gap.

  • CV Hopper

    The entire Chinese military buildup can be blamed totally on the American consumers buying of Chinese merchandise.

    Bottom line: US funded.

    • Ray

      So true. Not only have we built China with US dollars, we have given them the ability and technology to produce all those products. The US produces virtually nothing compared to WWII capability. We shipped Russia more locomotives, train cars and rails than exist today in the US. Not to mention ships, tanks, bombers and fighter planes. If we called in the Lend Lease amount and converted to todays worthless dollars, we could pay off the national debt. We also built every muslim nation with our oil money. Not only that but the staggering amounts of money going to rebuild Japan, Germany and Europe. The Chinese and Russians have ALL of our technology. China builds virtually all the electronics components that are in every computer on earth, whether or not they are US brands. We are simply falling rapidly and waiting to land, without a chute, onto third world status. The anti American, anti God, racist, pro communist, pro muslim regime that nobody voted for but somehow got elected has done everything possible to weaken the country militarily, monetarily, morally and mentally. The Chinese are a small threat compared to the democrats.

  • pessimusbasterd

    Anybody can build something and put it on show case. The real test is going to be can they maintain it? Can the operate it under extreme conditions, can they recover from a casualty, fire in engineering spaces or flight decks, can they recover a damaged aircraft or any of the other numerous things that can go wrong at sea on a carrier. I am not suggesting they can’t or will not be able too, however all the media is they built one. Neat. what can they do with it?

  • ITC Gee

    It looks Russian. I don’t expect this thing to last.

  • superraptor

    the ultimate plan will be 40 carriers, just wait and see, and we will be down to 5 carriers at best. There is a cold war in the making and we refuse to increase our defense budget. We are playing to loose and GOP defense hawks are active participants in that

  • JEMcKellar

    The carriers’ real purpose is to establish Chinese sovereignty over the South China Sea, with the air assets to patrol and control the airspace and establish some sort of presence over a large area of empty sea. Escorts, or traditional WW2 fast-carrier tactics and doctrine are completely beside the point, this is really a 21st century version of 19th century gunboat diplomacy (or rather 15th century, from the Chinese perspective).

    It might also have the side effect of sparking an East Asian arms race, or the pointed lack of one. South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam will all have to decide whether to strengthen their military and their ties to the USN, or back down and work with the Chinese.

  • John

    Great, I love it when land powers make major financial commitments to their Navy. Especially since China has so many potential opponents who are within relatively short range of the likely operating areas for these carriers. And once they start into force projection far beyond their borders, they lose the support of the large land based air force. RAND did a good study on land based anti-ship missiles last year for those of you who are interested.

    My question is how long before the US start working on a joint venture with Japan and South Korea for a land based anti-ship missile? With sales later to Taiwan and a few other nations as well later on.

  • Bronco46

    The Chinese won’t be much of a threat for at least 30 years, if then. You’d think this was a Russian build up. There’s no mention of nuclear propulsion; without that they would need a fleet of sustainment ships that few countries, even with long nautical histories can’t afford.
    Small carriers like the one bought from the Ukraine will not be that formidable; since they won’t be able to carry many modern aircraft. There are so many factors involved in fielding carriers of the quality and quantity of the US, planners will have a long time to work on defenses.

    • Godzilla

      They have nuclear submarines and are presently the country in the world building the highest number of civilian nuclear reactors. They licensed every single nuclear reactor type they could find and thus have the capability to produce them in China. These include Canadian, French/German, and US designs. Do you think they don’t have the ability to manufacture a nuclear reactor for an aircraft carrier? I doubt it.

  • rtsy

    Am I the only one who thinks this might be a good thing? A China fully capable of patrolling it’s home waters might not be so touchy about the declining American Military presence abroad.

  • justathought

    China is only what the US has done, build up it’s military to protect it’s interest around the world. It will be the same as with Russia….a cold war. Lets face facts no major powers really want to go to war, there is to much at stake and neither side really wins. How would a war benefit either country. Chinas military does the same thing for them as it does for us, and that is it keeps people employed.
    Nobody really wants to go to war, that is unless it’s some little middle eastern county, that only has AKs and rocket launchers.

  • Willie

    All the talk and all the worrying?
    I feel sorry for the chinese navy men! 1 carrier or 20 carriers, they have to work on a boat stamped “Made in China” out of low grade metals and substandard materials!

    Now if the got carriers stamped “Made in USA” I would worry.

    Also a carrier or any offense or defense is only as good as the experience of their training! Until its battle tested and still around to brag I wouldnt worry too much.

  • Michael_AF_Ret

    A Guest replied to a portion of my earlier content concerning Obama and the Liberal Democrats. He/she went on to spout the Democratic Kool Aid party line. Suffice it to say, I saw it coming. My answer is “Chicago”. I was raised in Northern Indiana and all my relatives were Democrats. However, the Democrats of Indiana would have nothing to do with Chicago Democrats. Daley Sr was major. Really, he was the Governor of Illinois despite there being a warm body in Springfield. He went on to say the Obamacare is going to work – not likely. And, everything else is Bush’s fault. Neither example puts Obama in a good light. His speeches have no real content as they are nearly all adjectives. Obama had to get Reid to pass the ACA by suspending Congressional rules. So, everyone that voted for ACA violated the Constitution. The transfer of 700+ billions from Medicare violated the law. So, we have a bunch of felons in our highest offices.
    Oh, by the way, China’s “aircraft-carrier” is a scare tactic. The Pacific Theater during WW2 still lingers in the Asian mind. They have no use for a deep ocean navy. So, as another comment noted: Let them spend themselves into the poor house.

  • Barry

    Why don’t we just start building new aircraft carriers for the Chinese? There’s something with a high premium that can be MADE IN THE USA. We could also sell them some of our old ones. Hell, we ought to sell them any plane or weapons platform they want. They’re super expensive, so we’ll make beaucoup moolah, and we don’t have to worry about the “weapons” being used on us … we know they don’t work!

  • Jay Needham

    If you all would look at where the crap you buy at Wal-Mart and cell phones computers etc. You will find most are made in china, our greed for cheep labor and lower prices have fueled the Chinese economic explosion that is allowing them to create a huge military build up. If you want to hurt china where it hurts boycott American companies and other that are manufacturing in China. Hit the Chinese in the wallet and you will hit the Chinese where it hurts.

  • john

    keep in mind everyone never under estimate your enemy.remember pearl harbor.china could surprise the whole world.always be on alert.

  • CJHFl

    China wanting 4 carriers doesn’t surprise me, what does is that they would begin construction of a new one without having any experience in carrier operations. Their one operational carrier is a revamped Soviet ship that Russia didn’t want. To simplify the logic after you buy your first house or car you quickly grasp all the things you would do differently when moving on to #2 or 3.

    • blight_

      I still think the plan is to build four carriers of different type. The Liaoning will be rapidly downgraded as more carriers go in.

      An independent stab at designing a ski-jump aircraft will be viewed with interest. And if the next aircraft carrier is steam CATOBAR then we’ll know the plan is to launch and recover fairly large, heavy naval aviation aircraft, which should be viewed with caution.

      In parallel, the development of carrier-launchable aircraft beyond an obligatory light aircraft and helicopters will be interesting. An AEW or AWACS along with a refueling aircraft? An ALCM and an Anti-ship missile to go with them? Hmm.

  • hibeam

    It looks like the Chinese Carriers can easily be countered with red tug boats.

  • steven moravek

    China is just making jobs…absolutely no threat here.

  • Redmanrt

    A better investment for those who would like to build a Chinese empire would be to dump the calligraphy and adopt the Latin alphabet.

  • drew

    I seem to recall a Chinese sub popping up in the middle of a Carrier group not so long ago. Didnt get pinged once. The tools one has are only as good as the guys operating them

  • Lyle

    China is going to put it’s self into a hole. Made in China carrirer, what a joke. The one they have now is a former USSR ship. It burns bunker oil, take away it’s support resupply ships, and they are DEAD IN THE WATER!

  • Vincent Metzger

    Question is whether we relate to China as friend or foe. In reality our economies are linked and 2 billion Chinese are not going to be less than our equals. If the USA relates to China as a brother nation of major status, we could build those aircraft carriers and be partners with the emerging super power. There is no cause for this combative attitude. China is winning world class by diplomatic seduction not warfare. The US on the other hand is spending $trillion$ intimidating and destroying countries to literally steal their resources only to be evicted as beligerant bullies and China comes in, builds roads and dams and gets the resources on the cheap. Wake up! America. We are a nation of hillbillies trying to run the world by forced ingnorance. We need to partner up with China, Brazil, India and let them help police the world. I want to enjoy life not hover in combative fear to make the industrial military complex rich. Yes, I spent two years in Asia during the Viet Nam era and studied Asian history in grad school. I know what I’m talking about. Do you?

  • TeXan

    can we sell them plans for a electric plane launcher??

  • val

    Yeah, plans for 4, thinking about 14… Do not underestimate their resources, they are spreading like “disease” all over the world…. Technology taking huge steps from China

  • jimmy

    JIMMY CHEUNG 2 days ago
    In the Chinese culture, there is no “mutual beneficial” only winner or loser. China like to act as friendly country to gain whatever they want (example before they became the world manufacturer they were friendly, now they have $4 trillion reserve they act as a bully). In Chinese there is a saying: “In order to win, learn as much as possible from your opponent”. Now, as China is the 2nd largest economy, they steal commercial and government technology. their actions speak louder than their words. Why trust them? China and Russia medieval philosophies are the same: act friendly, gain advantage and then slaughter their opponent. To gain your trust, they may even marry their daughter to you. Think I am lying? Mao was offering to send Chinese women to US in 1973:
    In summary, they will do everything to win, no human rights, no morals, nothing. China didn’t even condemn Russia for assisting the rebels.why? That’s their way.

    • tiff

      The quoted conversation between Mao and Kissinger was obviously conducted in jest. It was clearly a joke. If you can’t even see that right away, maybe you shouldn’t be writing about politics.

  • anthony

    China should copy helping in the Embola crisses by also having ships ,planes to help..Maybe they can send lots of troops to help fight Isis also??

  • Ulster Black Swan

    China is like Canada, a postage stamp country! It is working on the establishment of a working Attack/Defensive Carrier and Submarine Vessel Force; to be limited to the South China Sea areas. Someone is blowing smoke and wearing blinders; you don’t do those projects for defensive reasons. If they do all these things. The PLAN will use them for just more than games and coastal protection; they already have built permanent land carriers in the South China Sea. They have the capability to build the submarines, cruisers, destroyers, and support & Supply vessels needed; four carriers can be made also, well before 2020{2017 or there about]. Where are our neutron bombs and missiles on our subs and vessels? If we can’t use our dirt weapons; lets use the stop them in their tracks gear and make their weapons useless, permanently…UlsterBlackSwan