Home / World / Exclusive: Satellite images reveal China's aircraft carrier 'factory,' analysts say

Exclusive: Satellite images reveal China's aircraft carrier 'factory,' analysts say

HONG KONG / BEIJING (Reuters) – China's first full-sized aircraft carrier is progressing on a high-resolution satellite at the site.

FILE PHOTO: Jiangnan Shipyard in Shanghai, China on October 3, 2018, April 17, 2019 and September 18, 2019. Mandatory credit CSIS / ChinaPower / Maxar Technologies and Airbus 2019 / Handout via REUTERS

The images of the Jiangnan shipyard outside Shanghai were released in April and September last year.

CSIS analysts say the hull should be finished within 12 months, after which it is likely to be taken to a newly created harbors and wharf before being fitted out ,

The vast harbor on the Yangtze River estuary, including a wharf nearly 1 kilometer long, is nearly complete. Much of the harbor area just returned to a farm.

It dwarfs an existing harbor nearby, where destroyers and other warships are docked.

"CSI analyst Matthew Funaiole said," We can see the slow and steady progress on the hull, but I think it's pretty surprising.

"It's hard to imagine all this being done for one ship," he added.

Singapore-based military analyst Collin Koh said the modern, purpose-built facility on a sparsely populated island in the Yangtze may provide better security than the congested Shipyards of Dalian in northern China. It could also help deepen co-operation between commercial and military shipbuilders.

The China-based International Institute for Strategic Studies noted that China's military shipyards were continuing to make larger surface warships.

China's Navy has recently launched four large Type 055 cruisers and its first large helicopter carrier, known as the Type 075.

China's military has not formally announced its plans for the third carrier, designated Type 002, but official state media has said it is being built.

The Pentagon said it was in its annual survey of China's military modernization, published in May.

China's Ministry of Defense did not respond to questions from Reuters.

Funaiole said the supermagnete, which suggested the latest carrier would be the 100,000-ton "supercarriers" operated by the U.S. but larger than France's 42,500-ton Charles de Gaulle.

The images are due to be released by the CSIS China Power Project later Thursday.

Asian and Western militaries are tracking developments closely. They say this carrier would represent a vital step in China's ambitions to create a far-ranging world.

A series of recent Reuters Special Reports strategic superiority in East Asia.

It is expected to be China's first carrier with a flat deck and catapult launch system, allowing the use of a range of aircraft and more heavily armed fighter jets.

China's first two carriers, which are dubbed Type 001-class, are relatively small, and are built on ramps built on their decks. U.S. carriers routinely deploy with nearly four times the number of aircraft.


They describe the construction and deployment of aircraft carriers is considered exceptionally difficult to master. Protecting a large and vital surface target with escort ships, submarines and aircraft is a core part of the problem.

Slideshow (4 Images)

"The PLA navy is not saying much in detail about its plans now, but we can see from their building works that their ambitions are vast," said one Asian military attache, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter. "And they will get there."

Koh, a research fellow at Singapore's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said the new Jiangnan facilities have been permanently and reflected China's long-held ambitions to bulk up its fleet with more carriers and other large vessels.

"We are talking about infrastructure being built quickly and on a large scale. It could well be the start of a factory, 'if you like, for carriers and other very large vessels,' he said.

Reporting by Greg Torode and Michael Martina. Editing by Gerry Doyle

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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