Satellite imagery of the PLA’s new asset – the Type 003 carrier – suggests China is making “considerable progress” on the naval vessel, with its flight deck and superstructure showing signs of completion. The vessel being developed in the Jiangyan shipyard near Shanghai is set to level up Beijing’s naval capabilities and will be the largest and most technologically advanced vessel to be constructed outside the US for decades.
Pentagon officials believe the new US Gerald R. Ford class supercarriers would dominate any conflict with China but said the ship marks a leap forward in Beijing’s military power.
Rear Adm. Mark Montgomery, a retired commander of the Japan-based USS George Washington carrier strike group, told The Washington Times China was moving closer to matching US capabilities.
He said: “China is closing the gap technologically with the United States, with the exception of nuclear propulsion.”
Not much is known about the new carrier, but reports suggest the Chinese vessel is around 318 metres in length – only a few metres short of similar US ships.
Eric Sayers, former adviser to the commander of U.S. Pacific Command, said China is building two navies simultaneously: one for the “near seas” and the other for open ocean operations.
He told Foreign Policy: “The trend is that China is attempting to build a blue water navy, and that’s what this third carrier and plan beyond that represents.
“That’s more for projecting power into the Indo-Pacific and beyond.”
Mr Sayers added: “It’s certainly enough to keep the U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander awake at night.
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Wu Qian, a spokesperson for China’s ministry, threatened that any incursion into Chinese airspace would trigger “serious consequences”.
Speaking about what the development of the new carrier means for China’s military actions in the South China Sea, Jerry Hendrix, a retired Navy captain and former U.S. Defense Department official, believes China will become more aggressive.
“I think they’re going to become more confrontational,” he said.
“With their carriers, they may think that they’re going to be able to establish sea control for long enough that they can pull off an amphibious assault.
“They’re moving beyond having aircraft carriers as just prestige platforms, and they’re moving to something much more complex.
“They’re moving to a power projection platform that can throw ordinance a longer distance.”
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