What Do We Know (so far) about China’s Second Aircraft Carrier?

Five years after commissioning its first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, China launched its second carrier, the Shandong, on April 26, 2017. Unlike its Soviet-built predecessor, the Shandong is China’s first domestically built carrier. Both carriers are similar in size and use a STOBAR (Short Take-Off But Arrested Recovery) system for the launch and recovery of aircraft. Although similar to the Liaoning, the Shandong features some notable enhancements and represents an important step in China’s developing aircraft carrier program.

The Shandong was commissioned into the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy on December 17, 2019, in Sanya on the island province of Hainan. Prior to being commissioned, the Shandong underwent nine sea trials over the course of 18 months. By comparison, the Liaoning, completed 10 sea trials in 13 months before being commissioned in September 2012. During construction and sea trials, the Shandong was known as the Type 001A; however, the December 2019 commissioning ceremony indicated that it is officially designated the Type 002.

Chinese aircraft carrier – Type 001A – Video

Key Facts

  • The island of the Shandong is approximately 10 percent smaller than that of the Liaoning, which provides additional deck space.
  • It displaces roughly 66,000 – 70,000 tons, a few thousand more tons than the Liaoning.
  • It features the advanced Type 346 S-band AESA radar system.
  • Its airwing is expected to be slightly larger than that of the Liaoning, featuring around 8 additional aircraft.
  • The Shandong may have an internal arrangement that is better optimized than that of the Liaoning.
  • The Shandong is limited to six days at sea before refueling, which is similar to the Liaoning.
  • The Shandong reportedly underwent back-to-back sea trials in early August 2019, suggesting the vessel experienced technical problems during trials.

Key Dates

Timeline of Key Events
November 2013 Construction begins
April 26, 2017 Launch
May 13 – May 18, 2018 First sea trial
August 26 – September 4, 2018 Second sea trial
September 11 – September 12, 2018 Arresting gear installed
September 14, 2018 Flight tests begin for J-15, Z-18, and Z-9
September 25, 2018 Installation of radio antenna
October 9, 2018 J-15D spotted on flight deck
October 28 – November 6, 2018 Third sea trial
December 27, 2018 – January 8, 2019 Fourth sea trial
February 27, 2019 – March 4, 2019 Fifth sea trial
May 14, 2019 Lane markings painted on flight deck, and replenishment drill
May 25 – 31, 2019 Sixth sea trial
August 1 – 4 and 6 – 22, 2019 Seventh sea trial
October 15 – 20, 2019 Eighth sea trial
November 14 – ?, 2019 Ninth sea trial and training exercises in the South China Sea
December 17, 2019 Commission into the PLA Navy
Source: Various

Key Characteristics of the Shandong

Pennant NumberCV-16CV-17
Carrier TypeType 001Type 002 (Previously Type 001A)
 Displacement 60,000 – 66,000 tons66,000 – 70,000 tons
 Ski-jump inclination14°12° (TBC)

 18-24 J-15 fighters

17 Ka-28/Ka-31/Z-8S/Z-8JH/Z-8AEW helicopters

TBD. It is expected that the Shandong will feature a slightly larger airwing than the Liaoning. An additional 4 fixed-wing aircraft or 8 helicopters is likely.
 Complement1,960 crew; 626 air groupTBD
 Armament3 × Type 1130 CIWS; 3 × HQ-10 SAM (18-Cell); 2 RBU-6000 ASW rocket launchers and flare/chaff rocket launchers TBD. Likely similar to the Liaoning
 Radar Type 346 S-band AESAType 346A S-band AESA
 PropulsionConventional steam turbines with diesel generatorsConventional steam turbines with diesel generators
 Cruising Speed29 knots31 knots (expected)
All information is subject to change. Figures for the Shandong are likely to change as more information becomes available. Details of the Liaoning sourced from The Military Balance. Feel free to contact us at chinapower@csis.org with any relevant information. 

Explore the Liaoning

The Shandong shares several similarities with the Liaoning. Explore our 3D model of the Liaoning on our feature page. ChinaPower

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