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

China's Liaoning Aircraft Carrier
China's Liaoning Aircraft Carrier. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

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 Amazon.com.

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

Written By

Expert Biography: A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.