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China's new high-tech aircraft carrier could launch in early 2022, satellite imagery analysis shows

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China's new high-tech aircraft carrier could launch in early 2022, satellite imagery analysis shows

By Ben Westcott, CNN

Updated 1154 GMT (1954 HKT) November 9, 2021

(CNN)A new Chinese aircraft carrier with technology nearly equaling the capabilities of its US counterparts could be launched as soon as February next year, according to an analysis of satellite imagery by a Washington-based think tank.

In images provided by Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), the carrier -- known only as the Type 003 -- can be seen on the edge of completion on October 23, in the Jiangnan shipyard in Shanghai.

The installation of major external and internal components, including power plants and the aircraft launching system, appears to either be finished or on the verge of completion, CSIS said. Only a few additional items -- such as radar and weapon systems -- remain to be installed before the vessel can slip into the Yangtze River, the analysts added.

"Based on available information and observed progress at Jiangnan, the authors estimate that the Type 003 will launch in roughly three to six months," CSIS said in a commentary published November 9.

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Two large openings are still visible on the deck of the Type 003 in images from September 2021, according to CSIS.

Once it is ready, the ship will be China's third aircraft carrier and its second to be domestically produced.

But unlike its sister ships, the Liaoning and the Shandong, experts said the Type 003 will feature more advanced aircraft launching technology, along the lines of the catapult system used by US aircraft carriers.

The new launchers will allow China to launch a wider variety of planes from the Type 003 faster and with more ammunition.

Matthew Funaiole, senior fellow at the CSIS's China Project, said the Type 003 would be the Chinese military's "first foray into a modern aircraft carrier."

"This is a pretty significant step forward," he said. "They've really committed to building out a carrier program, and they continue to push the boundaries of what they're able to do."

 

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