A brand new Chinese aircraft carrier with technology at almost the same level as it’s U.S. counterpart might end up being launched as soon as this February, according to information from the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
CSIS went on to state that it’s analysis of the aircraft carrier, which is primarily based on satellite imagery reveals that the carrier, known as Type 003, is almost complete with only a few more items that need to be installed before the vessel can then be launched in “three to six months.”
This will be the third aircraft carrier for China, but it’s the first one that is this advanced, which will provide Beijing the opportunity to launch a wider variety of planes from the Type 003 at a faster pace and with additional ammunition.
CSIS China Project senior fellow Matthew Funaiole went on to tell the folks over at CNN that the Type 003 “is a pretty significant step forward,” stressing that Beijing is “really committed to building out a carrier program, and they continue to push the boundaries of what they’re able to do,” as well as now boasting the largest naval force in the world.
The carrier’s value, however, isn’t solely in terms of combat capability, Funaiole emphasized, but also its worth in terms of diplomatic prestige and “power projection.”
“China wants to have a world-class navy. It wants to signal to the world that it has a world-class navy, [and] try to convince nations around the region or around the world that it is on par with the United States,” Funaiole went on to state, going on to add that the symbol of American naval power internationally is the fleet of aircraft carriers it has in its arsenal. The total number of carriers the U.S. has is 11.
A U.S. Congressional Research report last month said the Type 003 was expected to have a displacement of some 100,000 tons, comparable to a U.S. carrier of the same class, according to CNN.
Despite the advanced launch system, Funaiole said there are still indications that the Chinese carrier has not caught up technologically to its U.S. counterparts, which have more catapults, a larger airway, and more elevators to permit quicker deployment of aircraft.
“We’ve been at carrier operations for generations on generations and we have a number of different operators and engineers and technicians that have worked on them, that can pass that knowledge on to those who come after them,” Funaiole commented.
China has only operated aircraft carriers since 2012, and Funaiole said that sort of experience gap is not “something that you can just jump forward.”
Also, even when the carrier is officially launched, it will have to be tested and then fully outfitted before it will be able to officially enter service, which, according to CNN, is supposed to take two more years.