The most technologically sophisticated aircraft carrier that China has built to far looks to be approaching completion, as seen by satellite photographs reviewed by The Associated Press on Friday. Experts have predicted that the vessel might be deployed very soon.
Since 2018, the Jiangnan Shipyard, located to the northeast of Shanghai, has been hard at work on the Type 003 carrier, which is now being built. The satellite photographs that Planet Labs PBC acquired on May 31 give the impression that the crew is getting very close to finishing the vessel.
The launch, which has been expected for a very long time, is a “seminal milestone in China’s continuing modernization efforts and a symbol of the country’s expanding military strength,” according to a think tank called the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
According to a study published by CSIS, China often coincides important military achievements with pre-existing festivals and anniversaries. It was proposed that the ship may be put into service as soon as this coming Friday, which would coincide with both the annual Dragon Boat Festival and the 157th anniversary of the foundation of the Jiangnan Shipyard.
The deck of the ship is discernible in the satellite photographs in their entirety. It seems that the equipment that was located behind the carrier has been removed, according to a photograph that was captured on Tuesday despite the presence of wispy clouds. This is a step toward filling the whole drydock and floating the vessel. Pictures taken earlier this month revealed that construction was still in progress.
From Wednesday through Friday, there was too much cloud cover for the satellites of Planet Labs to take any pictures of the shipyard.
A request for comment that was sent to the Ministry of National Defense of China was not immediately met with a response.
Even though there was no official announcement on the launch, the claim that it “may be introduced shortly” was published in the state-controlled daily Global Times on Tuesday.
In addition, it was said that in April, the Chinese navy had issued a promotional film on the country’s carrier programme. The movie “implied that the country’s third aircraft carrier would be publicly disclosed shortly,” the report stated.
The United States Department of Defense predicts that the carrier won’t be completely operational until 2024 since it first has to go through a series of lengthy sea trials; yet, the carrier is China’s most sophisticated one to date. Similar to how it has handled the development of its space programme, China has approached the creation of its aircraft carriers with utmost caution, preferring to use only technology that have been tried, tested, and mastered.
The development of this capability is a component of a bigger effort by China to modernise its armed forces in preparation for expanding its influence in the area. In terms of the number of ships it has, the Chinese navy is already the greatest in the world; nevertheless, it does not come close to matching the capabilities of the American navy.
The United States Navy has the ability to assemble 11 nuclear-powered ships, making it the navy with the most aircraft carriers in the world. This is only one of the navy’s many strengths. The United States Navy has a total of nine amphibious assault ships, each of which has the capacity to transport helicopters in addition to vertical-takeoff fighter aircraft.
The United States of America has been expanding its emphasis on the area, notably the South China Sea, which coincides with the anticipated debut of the new Chinese carrier. The vast maritime region has been fraught with tension due to the fact that six governments claim all or part of the strategically vital waterway. This waterway serves as a conduit for an estimated $5 trillion in annual global trade and is home to abundant fishing stocks that are quickly dwindling as well as significant oil and gas deposits located beneath the ocean floor.
China’s assertion of its right to almost the whole waterway, its island characteristics, and its resources has been by far and away the most aggressive of any other country’s.
The United States Navy has navigated its warships close to man-made islands in the sea that are controlled by China. These islands are equipped with airstrips and other military installations. While China maintains that its sovereignty includes such islands, the Chinese Navy asserts that it carries out operations on those islands to protect the unhindered flow of international commerce.
China’s navy was primarily a coastal force in the past, but in recent years it has expanded its presence into the Western Pacific, the Indian Ocean, and even further afield. In the last decade, China established its first overseas base in the nation of Djibouti, located in the African Horn, where the United States, Japan, and other countries also maintain a military presence.
The ship is China’s second domestically produced carrier, after a Type 002 ship that is now undergoing sea trials. The ship is the country’s second aircraft carrier. Its second aircraft carrier is a modified former Soviet ship that was purchased as a hulk from Ukraine. It was then refurbished as an experimental platform over the course of several years. Despite this, it still possesses a considerable amount of combat capability thanks to an airwing of Chinese-made fighters that were developed from the Russian Su-33.
In addition to being the largest of China’s three aircraft carriers, the Type 003 class is also equipped with a catapult launch system.