Conventional power drives China’s Fujian carrier, not heavy oil

The Fujian aircraft carrier is China’s latest marvel, showcasing cutting-edge technology. With a displacement exceeding 80,000 tons, it boasts the world’s most advanced electromagnetic catapult system. This impressive feat of independent research and development has certainly caught the attention of the United States. 

China preps Fujian carrier for testing, J-15/J-35 aircraft loaded
Photo credit: Sohu

The enigma surrounding the Fujian’s power system seems to be unraveling, highlighted by its recent sea trials. Western analysts speculate that this giant isn’t powered by heavy oil. So, what exactly sets Fujian’s power system apart? 

If heavy oil indicates a conventional power system, does that mean the Fujian utilizes something revolutionary? What high-tech secrets lie within this new aircraft carrier?

Conventional power drives China's Fujian carrier, not heavy oil
Photo credit: Sohu

Conventional power…?

Since the main body of the Fujian ship was completed, speculation has been rife about whether this world-famous warship, which has never been a carrier, will see a breakthrough in its power system. Yet, evidence suggesting the Chinese aircraft carrier Fujian uses conventional power remains substantial. 

The Fujian ship was launched and began its outfitting process in June 2022. During a preliminary sea trial, smoke was observed emanating from the ship’s island smoke discharge port. 

Conventional power drives China's Fujian carrier, not heavy oil
Photo credit: Sohu

This is a clear sign of a conventionally powered aircraft carrier. Moreover, the large conventional power chimney further affirms Fujian’s conventional power system. Many netizens concur with this observation. By all accounts, the Fujian aircraft carrier is undoubtedly the third aircraft carrier in China’s fleet to utilize a conventional power system.

… or raised nuclear fuel rods?

After recent sea trials, speculation has emerged from the United States suggesting that the Chinese aircraft carrier Fujian might be using nuclear fuel rods. However, there’s widespread debate among netizens, as many believe the Fujian doesn’t rely on heavy fuel. The exact nature of the power system aboard the Fujian is still a hot topic. 

Conventional power drives China's Fujian carrier, not heavy oil
Photo credit: Sohu

Even without a confirmed upgrade to a nuclear power system, US experts contend that the Chinese aircraft carrier Fujian has made significant strides in overcoming technical challenges related to its power system. Some even argue its advancements might surpass those of the Ford-class carriers. 

One of the key highlights is the advanced 32-front radar system, which boasts no detection blind spots and can monitor targets in all four directions. Analysts suggest that China’s radar capabilities might even eclipse those of the Ford-class. 

This sophisticated radar system demands substantial electrical power, complementing an all-electric propulsion system and an electromagnetic catapult system. Together, these consume vast amounts of electricity, necessitating efficient energy management and replenishment. These challenges have led to considerable discussion and analysis within US defense circles.

China preps Fujian carrier for testing, J-15/J-35 aircraft loaded
Photo credit: Sohu

The misfortune of the US and Russia

These operations can’t be handled with just ordinary heavy fuel. Think about it – there are so many systems that require electricity, like communications, lighting, and air conditioning. So, at the very least, you’d expect the Fujian to have nuclear generators on board, which the United States has always viewed with suspicion. 

Now, trying to get a clear view via satellite images has proven difficult, and this has left the United States uneasy. China’s third aircraft carrier demonstrates rapid advancements and is quickly catching up to the USS Ford in terms of comprehensive development. This raises a critical question: Is US aircraft carrier technology losing its edge? 

J-15B fighters will take off from the Chinese Fujian carrier
Photo credit: Wallpaper vista

As for past claims of being fifty years ahead of the world, it seems the United States is now more cautious with such assertions, as these claims have lost some credibility. Observing China’s rapid progress with aircraft carriers, Russia feels a mix of happiness for China and a sense of longing, having spent over half a century pursuing its own aircraft carrier dream.

Is China encouraging Russia?

Interestingly, China’s journey to developing its own aircraft carrier ties back to the Soviet Union. Post-collapse, China painstakingly acquired a dismantled Soviet aircraft carrier, transporting it piece by piece back home. Investing heavily in scientific research and learning on the go, China eventually constructed an aircraft carrier that left even Russia impressed. 

Russia's quest for an aircraft carrier: decoding Naval Su-33 fate
Photo credit: China Power

It’s not just Russia that’s taken notice, though. Remarkably, China has built three aircraft carriers in just ten years. In contrast, the U.S. maintains a dominant presence, prompting Russia to turn its focus inward. 

Reflecting on China’s achievements, Russia is now reconsidering the idea of developing its own new aircraft carrier. Inspired by China’s progress, Russia seems more determined than ever. The question remains, however: Can Russia muster the same patience and dedication that China has demonstrated?


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