China Launching its 3rd Aircraft Carrier with 4th Likely on the Way

A Chinese Aircraft Carrier goes out into the South China Sea / "Baycrest - Wikipedia user - CC-BY-SA-2.5 / Baycrest - 維基百科用戶 - CC-BY-SA-2.5"

ANALYSIS – As the movie ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ takes the cinematic world by storm, Communist China continues its breakneck speed effort to develop a blue ocean navy to challenge America’s mastery of the seas.

Based on recent satellite imagery and news reports, a shipyard in Shanghai appears ready to launch China’s third aircraft carrier, the Type 003, with the launch coinciding with the Dragon Boat Festival.

This would be China’s first carrier semi-comparable to similar U.S. warships.

wrote about this ship in November.

The newest Chinese carrier was supposed to be launched on April 23 to commemorate the 73rd anniversary of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), but it was postponed due to the Covid-19 lockdown in Shanghai.

The new carrier is expected to be named Jiangsu, following the PLAN’s tradition of naming these warships after coastal provinces from north to south.

This photo is from July 2021.

Unlike the communist country’s first two aircraft carriers, the Liaoning and the Shandong, which were older Soviet designed vessels with ski ramps, the Type 003 has a flat-top flight deck with three electromagnetic catapults, similar to those employed only on the American Ford-class supercarrier currently undergoing sea trials.

But unlike America’s carriers, the Type 003 will be conventionally powered, not nuclear. This will limit its ocean-going capabilities but will give it increased lethality in places such as the Taiwan Straits.

The South China Morning Post reports that: “The Maritime Safety Administration last Friday issued a notice calling for berths to be cleared for an operation at the No 3 and No 4 docks at the Jiangnan shipyard on Changxing Island, where the warship is under construction.”

It said the operation would be under way from 5.30am to 4pm on Monday and would involve five platforms, three tugboats and two salvage ships.

This photo is current

One Chinese military insider reportedly told the Post that: “The aircraft carrier needs to go into sea trials as soon as possible – it may take several years to achieve initial operational capability.”

Eurasia Times reported that:

Beijing-based naval expert Li Jie predicted that this Friday would be a “good day for the birth of the ‘third child,’” referring to the warship’s nickname. “It implies the vessel is the country’s dragon boat – a good blessing,” he said. 

Li further said that “time is precious” for the aircraft carrier. “The installation of all of the weapon systems and the activation of its propulsion system will only start after the hull is proven to have no leaks once it goes into the water.” 

Meanwhile the South China Morning Post reports that a 4th PLAN carrier, likely nuclear powered may be on the way:

Recent images of a stealth fighter jet at a naval airbase suggest China has begun pilot training preparations for a fourth aircraft carrier, defence experts say.

China is known to be developing its third and largest carrier, the Type 003, with sea trials expected soon. Whether work has started on a Type 004 is not yet clear.

Satellites in March spotted two FC-31 Gyrfalcon stealth fighters lined up alongside several J-15 carrier-based fighter jets at the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) flight training facility in Liaoning province, offering a comparative view of the two models for the first time.

The Drive also noted in late 2021 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.

And 19fortyfive reports that:

Plans for a fourth carrier have been closely guarded, but according to Popular Science, the shipbuilder accidentally spilled some details. Leaked documents claim the carrier “will displace between ninety thousand and one hundred thousand tons and have electromagnetically assisted launch system (EMALS) catapults for getting aircrafts off the deck. It’ll likely carry a large air wing of J-15 fighters, J-31 stealth fighters, KJ-600 airborne early warning and control aircraft, anti-submarine warfare helicopters, and stealth attack drones.” 

While many western naval observers argue that these ships won’t be combat ready for many years, the fact that China is making great strides in its carrier force development should worry U.S. and allied defense planners. Recall that only 10 years ago, China had no carriers and its fleet was vastly inferior to the West. That is no longer the case.

As Brent M. Eastwood notes regarding China’s plans for its 4th carrier:

Beijing’s goal is to introduce a nuclear-powered carrier – one with true blue-water capability that can project power and dominate the Indo-Pacific region.

And they are steadily working their way to that end.


Paul Crespo is the Managing Editor of American Defense News. A defense and national security expert, he served as a Marine Corps officer and as a military attaché with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) at US embassies worldwide. Paul holds degrees from Georgetown, London, and Cambridge Universities. He is also CEO of SPECTRE Global Risk, a security advisory firm, and President of the Center for American Defense Studies, a national security think tank. - paulcrespo.substack.com - PAULCRESPO.COM

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MNIce
MNIce
2 months ago

China is not bound to the leisurely, careful pace of ship qualification typical of present-day U. S. naval construction. It is probably operating on a schedule more like that of the U. S. during WWII, Expect to see this new carrier in service before the end of this year.

It’s interesting that China is putting resources into new carriers at a time when some pundits are claiming U. S. carriers are now worthless in a confrontation with China because China has figured out how to quickly identify them in satellite photos. They forget that we have the same capability, and if we don’t have a similar capability to threaten Chinese warships from a distance, our military and defense contractors have a lot of explaining to do.


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