China’s New Carrier Fujian Still a Work in Progress, Photos Show

The newest addition to China’s burgeoning navy may be afloat next to its former drydock, but it’s a long way from leaving shore. According to analysts, recent up-close photos of the vessel show many key features are yet to be installed, including radar and weapons systems.
The photos were reportedly taken on Sunday and shared on the Chinese Weibo social media site. In the images, the covers that were present on two mounting bases atop the control tower during the June 17 launching ceremony have been removed, and the bases exposed as empty.
Those bases are where the carrier’s powerful Type 346 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar will be installed.
“The AESA mounting bases were covered up by decorative boards when [the Fujian] was launched because it wouldn’t have been good to see these holes during the ceremony,” Lu Li-shih, a former instructor at the Taiwanese Naval Academy, told the South China Morning Post.
He added that the repeated delays to Fujian’s launch, which was variously reported as likely to occur in April and May, “suggests many of the underwater engineering tests and other work to follow is also likely to be pushed back.”
Other photos show that the Type 1130 30-millimeter automatic cannon, prominently displayed during the launching ceremony as its only weapon, has been dismantled.
Beijing-based naval expert Li Jie also told the paper that Fujian doesn’t have an active propulsion system yet, either, necessitating its connection to the shore via power cables.
“Weapon systems and other important equipment are installed after the launch because the structure changes a little bit under water pressure,” he added. The ship sat out of water in a sheltered drydock before June 17.
In addition, the covers remain over its three electromagnetic aircraft launch systems (EMALS), an advanced technology used to launch aircraft from the flight deck and which it shares with the US Navy’s Ford-class carriers.
Even on the Ford, the technology is unproven, and the American warship has repeatedly stumbled over its many new technologies, with the EMALS catapults breaking during a major testing cruise in 2020.
Fujian is smaller than the Ford or Nimitz-class aircraft carriers used by the US Navy, but larger than the British Royal Navy’s Queen Elizabeth-class carriers. It is China’s first super carrier and its first to use aircraft catapults, with its two earlier carriers using ramps on the bow of the ship to lift aircraft into the air.