China nears completion of new aircraft carrier, could launch within months

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China is nearing the completion of a new aircraft carrier that will boost the nation’s military strength and influence in the region, experts say. 

Images of the Jiangnan Shipyard captured on Oct. 23 show the vessel, called only Type 0003, is far along in development and construction. The carrier could launch within six months, according to three experts at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. 

The images showed significant progress from those taken on Sept. 18, with large openings in the deck sealed shut, signaling the installation of major internal components, the experts wrote. 

( CSIS/High Resolution/Maxar Technologies 2021)

The most significant revelation, though, is the inclusion of a catapult launching system for aircrafts – the first of its kind for the Chinese navy: China’s two existing carriers, the Liaoning and Shandong, rely on the older model of a ski jump-style takeoff. 

A catapult system will allow for deployment of fixed-wing aircraft and aircraft with lower thrust-to-weight ratios. The system reportedly uses an electromagnetic drive – similar to the one developed for the U.S. Navy’s new Gerald R. Ford class carriers. 

( CSIS/High Resolution/Maxar Technologies 2021)

Despite the significant progress, it may still take years for the Type 003 to reach operating capability. The U.S. Department of Defense estimated that the vessel may enter service by 2024 – a delay from initial projections of a 2023 launch. 

The revelation marks the latest concerning step in China’s naval operations and preparations following the release of satellite photos that showed the Chinese military testing missiles against a replica of a U.S. Navy vessel in the Taklamakan Desert. 

( CSIS/High Resolution/Maxar Technologies 2021)

The mock-ups, which were “substantially complete by early October” 2021, appear to signal China’s intent to develop technology and methods to counter these U.S. assets. 

The revelation has stirred up increased concern among U.S. officials in Congress and the Pentagon about Chinese aggression.

However, some experts say that any “hot” conflict between the two nations is not imminent.

China would signal its intent to take action against Taiwan by first deploying a number of “unconventional pressures” and “menacing activities” including cyberattacks, troop build-ups and ship realignment in the region – not to mention a ramp-up of diplomatic posturing, President of the Institute of World Politics and former Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy James Anderson told Fox News.

The Pentagon did not respond to a Fox News request for comment. 

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