China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has begun installing new turbo power generators on its warships. With four times the capacity of existing power plants, the new generators will enable new technologies, such as electromagnetic catapults and railguns, to be deployed as well.
The China State Shipbuilding Corporation’s (CSSC) 704 Research Institute has announced that its 20-megawatt power generators have entered service, the Global Times reported. That’s enough electricity to supply a city of 15,000 inhabitants. No information was provided regarding the purpose of the new generators or which ships they have been installed on.
The vastly increased power output could be used by a number of new technologies Beijing has been developing for its warships. Li Jie, a naval expert in Beijing, told the South China Morning Post the more powerful generators “will mean all these high-energy-consuming systems can operate.”
China has been testing naval uses of a railgun since at least 2017, a weapon which uses electromagnets to accelerate a metal projectile to extremely high speeds. Rather than relying on explosives, the sheer force of the impact produces sufficient energy to destroy the target, which is why railguns are called “kinetic energy weapons.”
While the details on China’s railgun weapon are not public, the US Navy’s experimental railgun has a power demand of some 25 megawatts, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The US Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class destroyers are only capable of a maximum power output of 7.5 megawatts using three 2.5-megawatt generators. However, the Zumwalt-class stealth destroyers can produce over 70 megawatts of power, making it a suitable platform for the deployment of a railgun or laser weapon.
The Global Times noted the turbo generators make it possible to use advanced integrated electric propulsion (IEP) technology, which would effectively make the ships hybrid gas-electric vehicles. The Zumwalt uses such a design, as do the British Royal Navy’s Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier and the cruise liner RMS Queen Mary II.
China’s Type 002 aircraft carrier will have an electromagnetic aircraft launch system (EMALS) for fixed-wing aircraft, which will also require an enormous power output. LINK
The Global Times report also noted that the new technology could be used for China’s 10,000 ton-class Type 055 destroyer, and that China’s new generation submarine could technically also use the new generator unit.
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