China’s third aircraft carrier could be combat ready by 2023

Chinese state media claims the carrier will employ electromagnetic catapult launch system

China's Liaoning aircraft carrier (Reuters photo)

China's Liaoning aircraft carrier (Reuters photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Construction on China’s third aircraft carrier appears to be progressing, according to new commercial satellite photos.

The images, released by Washington think tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), were collected on Aug. 18 and show nine hull blocks separated on a dry dock at the Jiangnan Shipyard in Shanghai. According to CSIS, excluding the spaces between the blocks, the vessel appears to be approximately 297 meters in length and 40 meters across.

As construction continues on the carrier, the addition of the flight deck is expected to increase the overall length of the vessel by several meters. For comparison, the overall length of the USS Gerald R. Ford is almost 16 meters longer than its waterline length, CSIS pointed out.

Based on the current images, it is unclear what type of aircraft launch system the third carrier will use. The state-backed newspaper the Global Times said the new carrier could have an electromagnetic catapult launch system.

According to Chinese state media, after the hull for the new carrier is sealed, it could be put into the water by the end of the year to be fitted out. According to Matthew Funaiole, a researcher at the CSIS ChinaPower project, talking to the Washington Post, the third carrier will most likely not be ready for combat until 2023.

The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) currently has two combat-ready aircraft carriers, the Liaoning and Shandong. The Liaoning is a refurbished former Soviet aircraft carrier, while the Shandong is basically a reverse-engineered copy of the Liaoning, according to the Washington Post.