China's future aircraft carrier may be nuclear-powered, according to research information released by a State-owned defense company on Wednesday.
China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC) said in a statement on Tuesday that it plans to "speed up the process of making technological breakthroughs in nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, new-type nuclear submarines, quiet submarines, maritime unmanned intelligent confrontation systems, maritime three-dimensional offensive and defensive systems, and naval warfare comprehensive electronic information systems."
It is the first time a State-owned Chinese defense company has openly identified nuclear-powered aircraft carriers on its agenda.
CSIC late on Wednesday removed the sentence involving nuclear-powered vessels from the announcement on its website.
Military experts said China may have achieved initial progress in its research of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and it may not be too long before authorities confirm the news.
"I think we can say that China has made major breakthroughs in the implementation of nuclear power on large vessels," Li Jie, a Beijing-based naval expert, told the Global Times on Wednesday.
In a veiled reference in November, CSIC Chairman Hu Wenming said in a speech at the Dalian Shipbuilding Industry Company construction site in Liaoning Province for China's first domestically made aircraft carrier that China is capable of designing and building any type of aircraft carrier.
"Hu's speech indicates that China can build aircraft carriers powered by diesel, gas or nuclear power," Li said. "The country has mastered all the fundamental core technologies, including ski-jump and catapult-assisted launch technologies.
"In the future, China's national interests will continue to expand overseas. Without a fleet of large nuclear-powered vessels, the Chinese navy cannot sail for a long time to faraway waters."
Aircraft carriers with conventional power require the company of large depot ships, Li said, which in turn requires replenishment from ports or overseas bases. "This is conducive to protecting national security and overseas interests."
China commissioned its first aircraft carrier Liaoning, a refurbished Soviet ship it bought from Ukraine, in 2012. Its second carrier and the first domestically built carrier, known as Type 001A, was a close copy of the Liaoning and was launched in April last year.
Media reported that a third aircraft carrier, Type 002, is being under construction at the Shanghai Jiangnan Shipyard Group, although it has yet to be officially confirmed by Chinese authorities.
"Each carrier achieves some breakthroughs," Li said. "The second absorbed and consolidated technologies from the first one. The third carrier is able to use an electromagnetic aircraft launch system from the conventional ski-jump system. The fourth may witness breakthroughs in power units."
Established in July 1999, CSIC owns the largest shipbuilding and repair facilities in China and is a leading player in the research and design of naval and merchant ships.