Launch of China’s New Aircraft Carrier Delayed

China’s third and most advanced aircraft carrier will likely be launched soon, according to new satellite imagery of the vessel.The carrier, called the Type 003, has been under construction near Shanghai since 2018. Satellite images taken by Planet Labs late May suggest work on the vessel is nearing its completion. The launch has been long anticipated and was expected June 3 with the beginning of China’s Dragon Boat Festival. Chinese authorities reportedly delayed the launch, however, saying only that more work was needed before the vessel would be ready. The carrier’s deck is visible in the images and equipment behind the carrier has been removed in an apparent step toward flooding the drydock and floating the vessel. The Type 003 has been in development since 2015 and, though it likely won’t be fully operational until 2024, it will be China’s first fully modern aircraft carrier. It is markedly different from the nation’s two other carriers, the Liaoning and Shandong, in that it will likely be equipped with electromagnetic launch catapults that will allow it to field aircraft with heavier payloads and more fuel. Currently, only the United States and France field aircraft carriers equipped with such catapult systems. The coming launch serves also to underscore China’s military expansion and modernization program, which has seen huge strides in naval, drone, and hypersonic technologies. China’s naval forces now number around 360 vessels, plus additional hundreds of maritime militia vessels. The U.S. Navy, meanwhile, has fewer than 300 vessels, with several slated to be decommissioned in the coming years. Dakota Wood, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said last year that people often believed the U.S. Navy to be far superior to China’s because of the number of its advanced warships, boasting some 20 aircraft carriers. That was a mistake, however, he said, as only a small fraction of the United States’ global fleet is capable of immediately responding to crises with China. “Oftentimes you’ll hear comparisons that the U.S. Navy has as many carriers as the next [so-many] countries combined, but only a percentage of that naval capability is available on any one day, and you have to take that and project that abroad,” Wood said. He noted that only about 60 U.S. warships, including one aircraft carrier, are ever deployed in the Indo-Pacific region at any given time. Meanwhile, nearly the entirety of China’s navy and militia forces are located in the waters immediately surrounding the Chinese mainland. That fact has big implications for geostrategy given recent remarks by U.S. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, who said that China’s military was developing its force with the specific intent of overcoming U.S. forces and ejecting the American presence from the western Pacific. The construction of the Type 003 also highlights one potential pitfall of having the Chinese communist regime fully integrated into the global supply chain. A report in April, for instance, highlighted that the Jingjiang port, where the Type 003 is being finished, also receives billions of dollars in trade from international orders for merchant vessels, meaning that the global dependence on China for such manufacturing could be being used to directly fuel its military expansion. Follow Andrew Thornebrooke is a reporter for The Epoch Times covering China-related issues with a focus on defense, military affairs, and national security. He holds a master's in military history from Norwich University.

Launch of China’s New Aircraft Carrier Delayed

China’s third and most advanced aircraft carrier will likely be launched soon, according to new satellite imagery of the vessel.

The carrier, called the Type 003, has been under construction near Shanghai since 2018. Satellite images taken by Planet Labs late May suggest work on the vessel is nearing its completion.

The launch has been long anticipated and was expected June 3 with the beginning of China’s Dragon Boat Festival. Chinese authorities reportedly delayed the launch, however, saying only that more work was needed before the vessel would be ready.

The carrier’s deck is visible in the images and equipment behind the carrier has been removed in an apparent step toward flooding the drydock and floating the vessel.

The Type 003 has been in development since 2015 and, though it likely won’t be fully operational until 2024, it will be China’s first fully modern aircraft carrier. It is markedly different from the nation’s two other carriers, the Liaoning and Shandong, in that it will likely be equipped with electromagnetic launch catapults that will allow it to field aircraft with heavier payloads and more fuel.

Currently, only the United States and France field aircraft carriers equipped with such catapult systems.

The coming launch serves also to underscore China’s military expansion and modernization program, which has seen huge strides in naval, drone, and hypersonic technologies.

China’s naval forces now number around 360 vessels, plus additional hundreds of maritime militia vessels. The U.S. Navy, meanwhile, has fewer than 300 vessels, with several slated to be decommissioned in the coming years.

Dakota Wood, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said last year that people often believed the U.S. Navy to be far superior to China’s because of the number of its advanced warships, boasting some 20 aircraft carriers. That was a mistake, however, he said, as only a small fraction of the United States’ global fleet is capable of immediately responding to crises with China.

“Oftentimes you’ll hear comparisons that the U.S. Navy has as many carriers as the next [so-many] countries combined, but only a percentage of that naval capability is available on any one day, and you have to take that and project that abroad,” Wood said.

He noted that only about 60 U.S. warships, including one aircraft carrier, are ever deployed in the Indo-Pacific region at any given time. Meanwhile, nearly the entirety of China’s navy and militia forces are located in the waters immediately surrounding the Chinese mainland.

That fact has big implications for geostrategy given recent remarks by U.S. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, who said that China’s military was developing its force with the specific intent of overcoming U.S. forces and ejecting the American presence from the western Pacific.

The construction of the Type 003 also highlights one potential pitfall of having the Chinese communist regime fully integrated into the global supply chain.

A report in April, for instance, highlighted that the Jingjiang port, where the Type 003 is being finished, also receives billions of dollars in trade from international orders for merchant vessels, meaning that the global dependence on China for such manufacturing could be being used to directly fuel its military expansion.


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Andrew Thornebrooke is a reporter for The Epoch Times covering China-related issues with a focus on defense, military affairs, and national security. He holds a master's in military history from Norwich University.