China seen to be building its largest aircraft carrier

World | REUTERS 8 May 2019

Construction of China's first full-sized aircraft carrier is well under way, according to satellite images obtained and analyzed by a US think tank.

The images from April, provided by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, reveal considerable recent activity during the last six months on a large vessel at the Jiangnan shipyard outside Shanghai.

China has not formally confirmed it is building a third carrier and the timing and extent of its carrier program remain state secrets.

Both Asian and Western militaries are seeking information on the carrier, which is expected to be the country's first large, modern platform capable of leading a full range of strike group operations.

The CSIS images show a bow section that appears to end with a flat 30-meter front and a separate hull section 41 meters wide, with gantry cranes looming overhead. That suggests a vessel somewhat smaller than 100,000-tonne US carriers but larger than France's 42,500-tonne Charles de Gaulle, analysts say.

The Pentagon's annual report on China's military modernization noted that the third carrier would probably be larger than the first two and fitted with a catapult launch system to accelerate aircraft during takeoff. China's first two carriers are relatively small, with only up to 25 aircraft, less than half the number aboard US carriers.

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