China’s third aircraft carrier, the Fujian, at Jiangnan Shipyard in Shanghai during its launch ceremony on June 17, 2022.
Li Tang/VCG via Getty Images
China released new details about its advanced aircraft carrier just as the UK floundered with its own.The Fujian is ready for sea trials, an expert reportedly said on state TV. Meanwhile, the British navy is badly underfunded and under-equipped, experts claim.
China touted the capabilities of its latest aircraft carrier just as a British vessel suffered an embarrassing malfunction that caused it to pull out of NATO exercises.
It came as the Royal Navy announced that its flagship aircraft carrier, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, had issues with a propeller shaft, meaning it had to withdraw from NATO’s upcoming exercises.
This matters — the problems are being exposed at a time when the UK is poised to respond to potential Chinese aggression in East Asia. It is also stretching its naval capabilities by providing protection to vessels in the Red Sea targeted by Houthi rebels.
NATO’s Steadfast Defender — the exercises which HMS Queen Elizabeth was forced to withdraw from — are the bloc’s largest since the Cold War, involving 90,000 troops. Asked about them in January, China’s defense ministry spokesperson Wu Qian accused NATO of being a warmonger.
Yet the Fujian, which was named after the province directly facing Taiwan, sits very much as a symbol of the Chinese fleet’s modernization and China’s goals of projecting power in international waters.
The vessel is progressing well at mooring tests and is due for sea trials, Cao Weidong, a former People’s Liberation Army senior naval officer, said on the same TV show in January, according to Newsweek.
The Fujian is the only aircraft carrier other than the USS Gerald R. Ford to use electromagnetic catapults for aircraft takeoff — allowing larger and heavier craft to take off at a faster rate than before, Popular Mechanics reported. Unlike its US counterpart, which is nuclear powered, the Fujian is conventionally powered.
HMS Queen Elizabeth
British Royal Navy
The Pentagon’s 2022 annual report on China’s military development further projects that the Chinese fleet will grow to 400 ships by 2025 and 440 ships by 2030, Business Insider previously reported.
Meanwhile, the HMS Queen Elizabeth’s mechanical troubles are a sign that the UK’s Royal Navy is underfunded and falling behind more powerful militaries.
Admiral Lord West, former First Sea Lord of the Royal Navy, told Business Insider that the Prince of Wales’ availability to replace Britain’s flagship meant that in this instance, the UK’s military preparedness was unaffected by the incident.
But, he said, years of funding cuts that he said have “had a serious impact” on the navy’s ability to respond to global threats.
He listed a litany of capabilities that have been neglected, including an aging fleet of ballistic missile submarines, “precariously low” weapon stocks and engineering stores, and a gaping lack of personnel. And, quite simply, the Royal Navy doesn’t have enough ships, particularly destroyers and frigates, he said.