Satellite photos show China's progress on the new aircraft carrier expected to give its naval power a boost

China has two airlines, Liaoning and Shandong, and a third is on the way. STR / AFP via Getty Images
A new analysis includes high resolution satellite photos from China's newest airline under construction.
China has two carriers based on an older design, but the new one should be a major upgrade.
The photos show China's "significant progress" with its new airline, CSIS experts said.
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A new satellite photo shows China is making "significant strides" on its newest aircraft carrier, according to new analysis.
Photos of the new airline under construction at the Jiangnan shipyard in Shanghai have been leaked online in the past few weeks, some pictures clearer than others.
This week the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank in Washington, DC, released an analysis of the vehicle's evolution using high-resolution satellite photos of the new vehicle from Maxar Technologies.
A high resolution satellite photo from Maxar Technologies shows China's third aircraft carrier under construction at the Jiangnan shipyard. CSIS / Maxar Technologies 2021
The Chinese Navy has two aircraft carriers - the Liaoning and Shandong. The first ship was built from the converted hull of an older Soviet ship, and the other is a China-built copy of the first with some improvements.
Liaoning REUTERS / Stringer
The third carrier, an as yet unnamed ship known as the Type 003, is expected to "greatly enhance China's naval capabilities," wrote CSIS senior fellows Matthew Funaiole and James Bermudez Jr. and associate fellow Brian Hart in their satellite imagery Tuesday.
"When the Type 003 finally enters service, it will be a formidable addition to China's navy and allow it to project its power more effectively," they wrote.
Building a larger, more modern airline
Probably similar in size to the U.S. Navy's Kitty-Hawk-class carriers - a decommissioned class of steam-powered flattops approximately 1,070 feet in length.
In addition, the ship is expected to have a smaller command center, or "island," and a much larger flight deck than its predecessor, making room for a larger wing than the Liaoning and Shandong's approximately 40 fixed and rotating aircraft.
A high-resolution satellite photo from Maxar Technologies shows the "island" on China's third aircraft carrier, which will likely house the ship's wheelhouse and air traffic control station.
Although work on the flight deck is incomplete, there are signs that it will feature a more modern flat-top design, almost certainly with catapults, as opposed to the less efficient entrenchments seen on the other two porters.
The entrenchment design of the first two carriers has limited the amount of weapons and fuel that the heavy J-15 carrier fighters can take off, reducing the carrier's combat effectiveness.
Shandong Getty Images
Steam catapults, or the newer aircraft electromagnetic launch system, would likely solve this problem, and they would also allow the carrier to launch larger aircraft, such as early warning aircraft, which can increase situational awareness.
China's third airline is expected to be conventionally powered. However, there has been speculation that follow-up vehicles might be equipped with nuclear propulsion, such as the U.S. Navy's current fleet of Nimitz- and Ford-class aircraft carriers.
The CSIS report said that progress on the carrier is proceeding at the same pace as the construction of the Shandong, suggesting the new ship may not be launched until next year. It could then be a few years before China gets it equipped and put into service through sea trials.
“It's not a US airline as it is today,” Funaiole recently told Insider, speaking about China's third aircraft carrier, “but it's still a big step for China. It is impressive what they have achieved in a short period of time. "
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