China's second aircraft carrier, which is now under construction, will focus on military operations rather than training and technological experiments, according to a senior military researcher.
"This carrier will have different missions than those for the Liaoning (the country's first aircraft carrier)," Senior Captain Zhang Junshe with the People's Liberation Army Naval Military Studies Research Institute told the official PLA Daily on Friday.
"We use the Liaoning to test the reliability and compatibility of systems on carriers, and to train personnel. The second carrier will mainly do what a genuine aircraft carrier is supposed to do: running combat patrols and delivering humanitarian aid."
Zhang said China urgently needs a second carrier, as the country is seeking to improve its defense systems and better safeguard national interests.
"The PLA needs at least three aircraft carriers. When it does, one can be on duty, one can train personnel, and the third can receive maintenance," he said.
China's second aircraft carrier is under construction in the coastal city of Dalian, Liaoning province, Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun told a news conference in Beijing on Thursday.
The Liaoning was originally a Soviet-era vessel and received an extensive refit at a shipyard in Dalian before going into service in September 2012.
The new carrier has been designed in China and will have a displacement of 50,000 metric tons, a conventional power system, and will carry domestically developed J-15 fighter jets and other ship-borne aircraft, Yang said.
The ship will use a ski jump mode for launching fixed-wing aircraft, the same as the Liaoning, he added.
Zhang said the new carrier's three major systems－power and propulsion, electronic systems and weapons－will all be developed by China and will have better capabilities than those on the Liaoning.
He said China will consider developing a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier after it gains enough experience in operating such large vessels.
Chen Xuesong, a fellow researcher at the PLA Naval Military Studies Research Institute, said he believes the new carrier, which is being constructed in sections to be assembled later, will be a tough challenge for Chinese engineers.
"Although we have gained expertise and know-how from the Liaoning refit project, the new vessel will truly be the first time for us to design and build an aircraft carrier," he told China Daily. "Our engineers must make sure their structural design is good and guarantee the quality of the steel parts."
Beyond the second carrier, China is looking into a host of cutting-edge technologies that can be used on future vessels.
China Shipbuilding Industry Corp, which refitted the Liaoning and is building the second carrier, has been researching nuclear-powered ships since 2013.
Du Wenlong, a senior researcher at the PLA Academy of Military Science, previously has said that it is highly possible that the navy's next-generation aircraft carrier will be equipped with nuclear propulsion.
China already has nuclear submarines that require highly sophisticated technologies and manufacturing capabilities, so developing a nuclear carrier will not be difficult, he said.