Should the U.S. Navy be worried?
Imagine If Russia and China Built Nuclear-Powered Aircraft Carriers Together
China could partner with Russia in order to develop nuclear-powered icebreakers.
While the vessels would be useful in their own right, the main benefit could be to help Beijing refine reactor technology for use in a future nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, according to the Hong Kong South China Morning Post.
The Chinese navy already possesses two conventionally-powered flattops and is building a third.
But naval expert Li Jie told the newspaper that to be truly competitive, the Chinese navy needs a ship capable of generating lots of power and high speeds in order to launch large aircraft. “China really needs a more powerful, nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to catapult its superheavy carrier-based fighter jet, the J-15,” Li said.
“While China has good experience in the development of nuclear reactors for use on land, it has yet to master the miniaturisation process that is needed to make a nuclear power unit suitable for an aircraft carrier,” South China Morning Post reported.
“China has strong naval building capabilities, but it is still very weak in nuclear miniaturisation. So it can learn from Russia,” Beijing-based military expert Zhou Chenming told the newspaper.
The Chinese fleet already possess nuclear-powered submarines. But the subs’ reactors are poor candidates for transfer to a surface ship as large as an aircraft carrier. France learned that lesson a quarter-century ago, Zhou pointed out.
In a bid to cut costs in the development of the Charles de Gaulle – France’s first and only nuclear-powered carrier – its designers used two K15 submarine pressurised water reactors as the main propulsion system.