Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Satellite image shows new Chinese carrier nearing launch

BANGKOK ( Associated Press) – China’s most advanced aircraft carrier to date is nearing completion, satellite photos analyzed by the Associated Press showed on Friday, as experts suggested the vessel could be launched soon.

The newly developed Type 003 carrier has been under construction at the Jiangnan Shipyard northeast of Shanghai since 2018. Satellite images taken by Planet Labs PBC on May 31 show that work on the ship is nearing completion.

The launch has been long anticipated, and constitutes a Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank called “a fundamental moment in China’s ongoing modernization efforts and a symbol of the country’s growing military might”.

CSIS noted in a report that China often associates military milestones with existing holidays and anniversaries. It suggested that the ship could be launched as early as Friday to coincide with the National Dragon Boat Festival as well as the 157th anniversary of the founding of Jiangnan Shipyards.

In satellite images, the deck of the carrier can be clearly seen. In an image taken Tuesday through wispy clouds, the equipment aft of the carrier appears to have been removed, a step towards flooding the entire drydock and floating the vessel. Pictures earlier this month showed work in progress.

Cloud cover prevented Planet Labs satellites from capturing images of the shipyard from Wednesday through Friday.

China’s Ministry of National Defense did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Although no launch was announced, the official Global Times newspaper carried a report on Tuesday, citing reports that it could be “launched soon.”

It said the Chinese Navy released a promotional video on the country’s carrier program in April that implied that the country’s third aircraft carrier would be officially revealed soon.

Although the US Department of Defense estimates the carrier will not be fully operational until 2024, having previously undergone extensive sea trials, the carrier is China’s most advanced yet. Like its space program, China has proceeded extremely carefully in the development of aircraft carriers, seeking to apply only those technologies that have been tested and proven.

Its development is part of a wider modernization of China’s military as it seeks to expand its influence in the region. China already has the world’s largest navy in terms of number of ships, but is nowhere near the capabilities of the US Navy.

Among other assets, the US Navy remains the world leader in aircraft carriers, with its forces capable of mobilizing 11 nuclear-powered ships. The Navy also has nine amphibious attack ships, which can also carry helicopters and vertical-takeoff fighter jets.

The expected launch of the new Chinese carrier comes as the US is increasing its focus on the region, including the South China Sea. The vast maritime sector has been tense as six governments lay claim to all or part of the strategically important waterway through which an estimated $5 trillion in global trade travels each year and which has rich but rapidly depleting fishing stocks and There are significant underwater oil and gas deposits.

China has by far been the most aggressive in asserting its claim to almost the entire waterway, its insular features and resources.

The US Navy has sailed warships across China-occupied man-made islands at sea, equipped with airstrips and other military facilities. China insists its territory extends to those islands, while the Navy says it operates missions there to ensure the free flow of international trade.

Once primarily a coastal force, China’s navy has expanded its presence in recent years into the Indian Ocean, the western Pacific and beyond, establishing its first overseas base in the African Horn nation of Djibouti in the past decade, where The US, Japan and others also maintain a military presence.

The carrier is China’s second domestically developed carrier, after the Type 002 ship which is currently undergoing sea trials. Its other carrier is a modified former Soviet ship that was purchased from Ukraine as a Hulk and refurbished over the years as an experimental platform, still airwings of Chinese-built fighters developed from the Russian Su-33. Packs with considerable combat capability.

In addition to being the largest of its three carriers, the new Type 003 class is equipped with a slingshot launch system that “will enable it to support additional fighter aircraft, fixed-wing early-warning aircraft, and more rapid flight operations, and as such.” The type will expand the “reach and effectiveness of its carrier-based strike aircraft,” the US Defense Department said in its annual report to Congress on China’s military in November.

“In particular, the PRC (People’s Republic of China) aircraft carriers and planned follow-up carriers will, once operational, expand air defense coverage beyond the range of coastal and shipboard missile systems and increasingly work group operations at long ranges.” will enable it.” The Chinese Navy’s “emerging need for sea-based land-attack systems will also enhance the PRC’s ability to project power,” the Defense Department said.

China’s current carriers weigh about half the size of US Nimitz-class flattops and are about 100,000 tons fully loaded.

Experts from Washington-based CSIS, who has been monitoring construction for years, said Tuesday in an analysis of various satellite images by Maxar Technologies, that a small ship had been thrown out of the way of the carrier, and that water is now partially Some of the dry dock fills.

But, he said, more work still needs to be done before the ship can leave the dock.

“The ladders that workers use to access the carrier – as well as support structures and other equipment skirting the ship – will need to be removed,” CSIS said. “The caissons, which section off the dry dock and allow multiple vessels to operate simultaneously, will also be opened to allow water to fill the entire dry dock.”

The Wall Street Journal first published Maxar images of the vessel from the CSIS analysis.

___ Gambrel reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Nation World News Desk
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