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China’s New Aircraft Carrier Might Be Full of Military Surprises

China's Liaoning Aircraft Carrier

This week new photos of China’s new Type 003 aircraft carrier circulated online, and some experts have expressed concerns that it could be significantly more advanced than its two operational carriers – and even pose a potential threat to U.S. Navy carriers.

First posted by Chinese social media user Louischeung_hk, the images show the still under construction carrier at the Jiangnan Shipyard (see above). The carrier is set to be launched later this year and could enter service with the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) by 2025. According to Naval Recognition, it is the first Chinese carrier to utilize a CATOBAR system and electromagnetic (EM) launch catapults for the launch and recovery from the flight deck.

Growing Carrier Fleet

The Type 003 is seen as a major leap forward for Beijing in its efforts to become a global superpower. China currently operates two aircraft carriers, including the Liaoning, or Type 001 carrier, which was actually under construction for the Soviet Navy during the Cold War as the Kuznetsov-class aircraft cruiser Riga.

After the collapse and dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, construction was halted and the carrier was put up for sale by Ukraine. The stripped hulk was purchased by a Chinese firm – reportedly to be converted into a floating hotel and casino. As the ship had been largely left to deteriorate in the elements, it seemed unlikely it would be used as a warship. However, it was eventually refurbished by the PLAN and became China’s first aircraft carrier.

More importantly, the acquisition and refurbishment of the carrier jump-started China’s carrier program significantly and led to the construction of Beijing’s first domestically-built carrier, Shandong. It is also based on the Soviet Kuznetsov-class design and features a ski jump-style deck.

Significant Progress

While the newly released photos of the Type 003 show that progress is being made, few concrete details have been reported to date. It is expected that the size of the carrier will be between 85,000 and 100,000 tons, and that the hull is approximately 300 meters (984 feet) in length. According to reports, the flight deck could have a width of 78 meters. The ship would be longer and much wider than its predecessors.

A report released by Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) on Tuesday stated that China’s area-denial capabilities could increase significantly when it completes its domestically developed Type 003 aircraft carrier, Taiwan News reported.

The Type 003 is expected to operate with an air group of around 40 fighter aircraft, as well as transport and airborne early warning and control aircraft, plus anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopters. It could also be equipped with a large number of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which could also be used to carry out surveillance and reconnaissance missions.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on

Image of China’s first aircraft carrier Liaoning. Image Credit: creative commons.Β 

Written By

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on



  1. Slack

    September 1, 2021 at 8:21 pm

    This so-called threat is just a proof of concept development of latest china naval technology.

    It poses no future threat at all as USAF will soon succeed in developing its hypersonic missiles.

    A carrier won’t last very long against a hypersonic attack. A sustained assault by such weapons ensures the carrier will stay afloat for only a brief time when a conflict erupts. It is like the iron battleships of WW1, likely to fade away.

  2. Eric Mowrey

    September 3, 2021 at 12:51 am

    I’m not inclined to dismiss the growing size, diversity, and growing technology of PLAN. China is ambitious and pulling out all the stops to one day defeat the US Navy. Already the boast more ships than the USN.

    America’s hypersonic missile program is still in research stage. China’s is fully developed. China has a larger conventional missile inventory than the US. The PLAN, to my knowledge, eschews women on their bluewater warships.

    Their ships average less than ten years old. US ships are closer to twenty. They are mission focused and do not suffer ridiculous PC social experiments that weaken cohesion and morale.

    Is China stronger than the US at this moment? Probably not, but they act as they know it and are single focused on full military superiority.

    I give the PLAN full credit for training, discipline and investment. That is not to applaud their geo-political aims but rather to recognize theyean business.

    It is foolhardy to ever underestimate your (potential) enemy, especially this one.

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