Explained | China’s new high-tech aircraft carrier Fujian and its advanced catapult system

Source: The post is based on the article “Explained | China’s new high-tech aircraft carrier Fujian and its advanced catapult system” published in The Hindu on 29th June 2022.

What is the News?

China has unveiled its first indigenous aircraft carrier, the new-generation Fujian (Type 003). With this, China now has the most number of aircraft carriers after the U.S.

What is Fujian?

Fujian is China’s “first fully domestically developed and constructed” aircraft carrier.

It has been named after China’s eastern coastal province which lies across from Taiwan.

This aircraft carrier joins two other carriers currently operated by China — Shandong (Type 001), commissioned in 2019 and the Liaoning (Type 002), bought second-hand from Ukraine in 1998.

Features

The Fujian’s displacement is 80,000 tonnes, much more than the existing Chinese carriers, and comparable to the U.S. Navy aircraft carriers.

It also has a straight flat-top flight deck for take-offs and landings,

It has also been fitted with the latest launch technology — the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System(EMALS), first developed by the U.S. Navy.

What is an Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System(EMALS)?

EMALS is a catapult system which helps to provide the extra push to aircraft. Once the catapult is released, the aircraft attached to the catapult moves forward with great speed in a short time, which helps it to gain the speed required to take off before it reaches the end of the runway.

Catapult Assisted Take-off But Arrested Recovery or CATOBAR is one such system. In this, an aircraft takes off from a completely flat deck with the help of catapults.

Types: There are two types of catapult systems — steam-powered, and electromagnetic ones called EMALS.

Steam-powered uses steam pressure to fire catapults. On the other hand, EMALS uses linear induction motors. The electromagnetic force generated is used to launch the aircraft.

Compared to steam catapults, EMALS is more reliable, requires less maintenance, recharges faster, doesn’t take up much space on a carrier and is energy-efficient.

What is India’s status on the EMALS system?

In 2017, the U.S. provided India with its EMALS technology, developed by the U.S. defence company General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc.

India explored the possibility of installing the system, but the Navy dropped the plan due to budget constraints.

However, the state-owned Bharat Electronics Limited in Bengaluru is reportedly working on an EMALS model that could be tested for CATOBAR operations on Indian warships in the near future.

For instance, India’s second aircraft carrier named INS Vikrant, set to be commissioned later this year, will use the CATOBAR system to launch aircraft.

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