Despite constant downplaying of the Chinese military threat in some media and political circles, the explosive growth in its capabilities are becoming impossible to ignore. The most recent Pentagon report on China just released last week has alarmed many in Congress.
And the Pentagon itself is admitting its shock at some of China’s more recent military advances, including its hypersonic space plane tested two weeks ago. Now we have evidence that China is preparing to launch its state-of-the-art Type 003 Aircraft Carrier, more closely equivalent to U.S. supercarriers, as early as this coming February.
ADN has reported extensively on Chinese naval developments, including their refurbished Soviet era ski-jump-style carriers used to train and develop aircraft carrier knowledge, as well as their new Type 075 helicopter assault carriers similar to the U.S. Wasp class amphibious assault ships, which they are producing in growing numbers.
And more recently on their Type 003 carrier as well.
But now a new Chinese aircraft carrier with technology nearly equaling the capabilities of its US counterparts could be launched as soon as February next year, based on analysis of satellite imagery by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
According to CSIS, commercial satellite imagery of Jiangnan Shipyard captured on October 23, 2021, “reveals that the installation of the carrier’s main external components is nearing completion.’ CSIS adds:
The inclusion of catapults on the Type 003 is a major leap forward for the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). China’s two existing aircraft carriers, the Liaoning and Shandong, rely on less advanced ski jump-style takeoff systems. The Type 003’s new Catapult Assisted Take-Off But Arrested Recovery (CATOBAR) launch system will enable the PLAN to launch fixed-wing aircraft with heavier payloads and more fuel, as well as larger aircraft that have a lower thrust-to-weight ratio.
Most CATOBAR systems are steam driven, but it is widely rumored that China has developed an electromagnetic launch system similar to the one developed for the U.S. Navy’s new Gerald R. Ford class of carriers.
CSIS notes that even after launch:
…it will still be years before the Type 003 is commissioned into the PLAN and achieves initial operating capability. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) previously assessed that the third carrier would enter service in 2023, but the latest DOD assessment states that it will enter service by 2024.
Meanwhile, The Drive reports that:
Unconfirmed reports last year suggest that work on PLAN’s next carrier — the Type 004 — was due to start soon, possibly at Dalian Shipyard in Liaoning. There are persistent rumors that this vessel will be both larger than its predecessors and will be nuclear powered, but other assessments suggest it will utilize the Type 003 design. Ultimately, however, it seems likely that nuclear power will be the PLAN’s goal.
However, the fact that China, which had no carriers and a vastly inferior naval fleet just 5-10 years ago, and is now producing supercarriers which only the U.S. Navy operates, should keep a lot of defense planners in the United States up at night.
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