The Naval Forces of the People's Liberation Army have experienced a meteoric increase over the past 20 years, going from a navy technically very late and specialized in the defense of a limited naval perimeter around the country, to a high military power. sea capable, in many ways, of competing with the best navies in the world. Today, it lines up 10 heavy assault ships with flight deck including two LHD Type 075 comparable to the America-class LHAs of the US Navy, about thirty Type 052 destroyers et heavy destroyers Type 055, as much Type 054A anti-submarine frigates, sixty Coastal anti-submarine corvettes Type 056A, around 11 submarines, 65.000 of which are nuclear powered, as well as around 2017 support vessels, ranging from LSTs to supply tankers and electronic intelligence ships. But it was above all its two new 2019-ton aircraft carriers, the Liaoning and the Shandong, which entered service in XNUMX and XNUMX respectively, which enabled the Chinese Navy to change its stature, by providing it with a combat air combat capability. and power projection.
However, the Chinese Navy of 2021 represents only the embryo of what will be the naval power of Beijing in the years and decades to come. With 7 new destroyers including at least 2 Type 055 heavy destroyers, 3 to 4 frigates, and at least one large naval ship produced each year, it will have, within fifteen years, overtaken numerically and in tonnage the American naval power, while being concentrated mainly on a single theater of operation, where the US Navy intervenes on all the oceans of the planet. In the air naval field, the arrival within 2 years of the first Type 003 aircraft carrier of 80.000 tons, with conventional propulsion but equipped with electro-magnetic catapults and an on-board air unit that will hardly have to envy the one. US aircraft carriers, will be a decisive step in this progression, while preparing for the arrival of future 100.000-ton nuclear-powered Type 004 aircraft carriers, the first unit of which could join the Chinese Navy at the start of the next. decade.
Beijing's effort vis-à-vis its Navy, and its naval air force, also relates to the airborne group itself, so far made up of on-board J-15 fighters derived from the Russian Su-33 of the Flanker family. Adapted to the constraints of Type 001 springboard and stopper aircraft carriers, and equipped with modern avionics, the fighter nonetheless remains an aircraft at the end of the technological cycle, particularly in the face of more modern aircraft such as the American F-35C or the French Rafale M. The Chinese authorities therefore began, 3 years ago, the design of a new on-board naval fighter, suitable for Type 003 aircraft carriers equipped with catapults, and meeting the demands of naval and air naval warfare in the years and decades to come. Initially, a navalized version of the J-20 stealth fighter was considered, but this hypothesis seems to have been quickly ruled out, in particular because of the very high costs of the aircraft, as well as its large dimensions which are hardly compatible with the constraints on aircraft carriers. Without ever confirming it formally, the Chinese authorities then decided to focused on the second 5th generation fighter aircraft program developed by Chinese industry, the Shenyang FC-31, to serve as a basis for this new device. And according to the chief engineer of Shenyang who previously led the J-15 program, Sun Cong, at the Zhuhai Fair, said, “People should be able to receive good news about the new program. hunter on board by the end of this year ”.
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