Pictures are circulating about China’s new organically designed carrier concept, bruited as a replacement for the Varyag design sold to China in 1998 as a “floating casino.” Now re-named Shi Lang (after the Imperial Chinese admiral who vanquished Taiwan), the ship is scheduled to undergo sea trials later this year.
The new design is a twin-hulled vessel, potentially using SWATH technology to enhance sea keeping at speed. It shows two parallel flight decks around a mid-mounted island structure. The flight deck layout is interesting – it would allow fully simultaneous launch and recovery of aircraft without the constraints of conventional carrier flex deck operations. The helo landing pads aft and below the flight deck would certainly have some “interesting” effects with any kind of wind over the bow.
SWATH designs, although they confer certain advantages, are difficult to engineer, expensive to build and even more cruelly costly to maintain. Underway replenishment would be difficult – to say the least – without a side-mounted aux conn of some sort, as would inport docking and underway evolutions. Nothing on this scale has ever been accomplished.
I’m no naval architect, but I sincerely doubt this design ever leaves the scratch pad.