China will construct two conventionally powered aircraft carriers in Dalian and Shanghai between 2014 and 2015, a source from China's Central Military Commission has told.
Under the Commission's Project 048, China aims to establish three carrier battle groups by 2020 so that all three major fleets of the PLA Navy will be able to carry out missions with the full support of an aircraft carrier. The two new Type 001A indigenous carriers will be updated versions of China's first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, which was originally a Soviet-era Admiral Kuznetsov-class aircraft carrier purchased from Ukraine in 1998. They will also likely be designed with a ski-jump ramp.
Sources said that the General Equipment Department of the PLA has already signed a contract with the Beijing-based China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation to build the two carriers. The price of the two vessels is estimated to be worth US$9 billion.
China has yet to decide whether its J-31 stealth fighter will replace the J-15 to become the country's next generation carrier-based fighter, according to sources. The J-31 fighter entered service after the J-15, and is able to land or take off from the flight deck of the Liaoning. Sources said that a decision will only be made after the construction of the nation's second and third aircraft carriers is completed. This will give the PLA more time to think about the type of carrier-based fighter it will need in the future, the sources added.