In April I wrote about China’s recently launched, and much-maligned, two ski-jump carriers. I noted that: ‘While many U.S. and western naval analysts mock China’s two (first-generation) ski-ramp medium carriers as a bit of a joke, they miss the point that they have a role, like our America-class amphibious assault ships, and are also test beds for China‘s real carriers being built.”
I added that satellite images are revealing that the next, more advanced carrier, Type-003 still under construction at Jiangnan Shipyard in in Shanghai, will be a monster. Based on more current information, the Type 003 carrier could end up with a length of about 1066 ft (325 m) and a width of 263 ft (80 m).
Interesting configuration and size estimation based on what is known so far for the Type 003 carrier.
As such it could end up with a length of about 325 m and a width of 80 m.
— @Rupprecht_A (@RupprechtDeino) June 1, 2021
As I noted, this Type 003 conventionally powered warship is expected to be CCP China’s first “catapult assisted takeoff but arrested recovery” (CATOBAR) carrier. Whether they will perfect the electromagnetic aircraft launch system (EMALS) troubling the U.S. Ford-class supercarrier, or end up using steam catapults, is still an open question.
A more recent analysis by three experts at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), based on updated imagery, is now provides more visual context and technical information on the progress being made on this ‘monster.’
Recent commercial satellite imagery reveals that China has made substantial progress in the construction of its third aircraft carrier, commonly known as the Type 003. The vessel is slated to become the largest surface combatant in the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) and significantly upgrade China’s naval capabilities.
…Satellite imagery from May 30, 2021, shows that the flight deck is now partially complete. While much remains to be done, close analysis of the Type 003’s status offers key insights about its configuration.
China has made substantial progress in the construction of its third aircraft carrier.
— CSIS (@CSIS) June 15, 2021
While the CSIS experts assess that it has two elevators, others ask if the Type 003 may have three?
If true an indeed interesting news but I must admit I’m not yet convinced.🤔 https://t.co/J3WGHYFnJR
— @Rupprecht_A (@RupprechtDeino) May 26, 2021
The CSIS authors then add:
The increased size of the Type 003 paired with an improved launch system opens the door to a larger and more diverse carrier airwing. While it will be a couple of years before aircraft find their home on the Type 003, the airwing may include airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft, such as the KJ-600. Should this materialize, it would significantly enhance the PLAN’s situational awareness and warfighting capabilities.
The Type 003 is also expected to benefit from an upgraded island—the tower structure housing the command center for flight deck operations, along with radar and communication equipment. Compared to the Shandong, the Type 003 will likely have a smaller island, which would free up crucial real estate on the flight deck.
In the satellite imagery from May 30, 2021, a portion of the island can be seen located near the vessel, tucked between two movable environmental shelters. Low-altitude aerial imagery of Jiangnan Shipyard from June confirms the presence of the island at Jiangnan.
Other images are seen here:
The first clearer image of the Type 003 aircraft carrier’s island.
— @Rupprecht_A (@RupprechtDeino) June 19, 2021
I must admit I’m surprised where images of the Type 003 carrier can be found, but Tik Tok was not a place I expected. 😳
Even if quite blurry it is so far the best image showing China’s third aircraft carrier so close …
(Image via TikTok/常来常往, however already deleted) pic.twitter.com/4UNsLqxJ7K
— @Rupprecht_A (@RupprechtDeino) June 3, 2021
The CSIS experts speculate that, “If work on the third carrier progresses at roughly the same pace as the construction of the Shandong, the Type 003 may not be launched until 2022. After launching, it will be several years before the vessel is fully fitted out, completes sea trials, and is then commissioned into the PLAN.”
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.
Western reports have frequently speculated that the PLAN may eventually build a force of six aircraft carriers. On the other hand, other observers claim that Beijing ultimately plans for “10 or more” carriers, which would clearly be a much longer-term ambition. ADN