Beijing yesterday launched a new-generation aircraft carrier, the first such ship to be designed and built in China, in a milestone as it seeks to extend the range and power of its navy.
The Type 003 carrier christened Fujian left its dry dock at a shipyard outside Shanghai in the morning and tied up at a nearby pier, state media reported.
China Central Television showed assembled navy personnel standing beneath the massive ship as water jets sprayed over its deck, multicolored streamers flew and colored smoke was released.
Equipped with the latest weaponry and aircraft-launch technology, the ship’s capabilities are thought to rival those of Western carriers, as Beijing seeks to turn its navy, already the world’s largest, into a multi-carrier force.
Satellite imagery captured by Planet Labs PBC on Thursday and analyzed by The Associated Press showed the carrier in what appeared to be a fully flooded dry dock at the Jiangnan Shipyard, near Shanghai, ready for launch. It was draped with red bunting, presumably in preparation for the launch ceremony.
“This is an important milestone for China’s military-industrial complex,” said Ridzwan Rahmat, an analyst with defense intelligence company Janes in Singapore. “This shows that Chinese engineers are now able to indigenously manufacture the full suite of surface combatants associated with modern naval warfare, including corvettes, frigates, destroyers, amphibious assault ships and now an aircraft carrier.”
“This ability to construct a very complex warship from the ground up will inevitably result in various spin-offs and benefits for the Chinese shipbuilding industry,” Rahmat said.
China’s first carrier was a repurposed Soviet ship, and its second was built in China, but based upon a Soviet design. Both were built to employ a so-called “ski-jump” launch method for aircraft, with a ramp at the end of the short runway to help planes take off.
The Type 003 employs a catapult launch, which experts have said appears to be an electromagnetic system, similar to that originally developed by the US Navy.
Xinhua news agency confirmed that the Fujian employed the electromagnetic system in a report on Friday’s launch.
Such a system puts less stress on the aircraft than older steam-type catapult launch systems, and the use of a catapult means that the ship would be able to launch a broader variety of aircraft, which is necessary for China to be able to project naval power at a greater range, Rahmat said.
“These catapults allow aircraft deployed to carry a more extensive load of weapons in addition to external fuel tanks,” Rahmat said.
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