New Photos Suggest China Is Building Its First Aircraft Carrier
Policy + Politics

New Photos Suggest China Is Building Its First Aircraft Carrier

iStockphoto/The Fiscal Times

New satellite imagery suggests that China might be building the first aircraft carrier of its own, according to a defense intelligence provider.  

Photos released by IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly on Thursday show “an unidentified hull in an advanced state of construction.” While it can’t be stated definitively that a new aircraft carrier is being built, the outline of the project and the slow pace of building suggest that it’s a military hull, the publication says.

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The new photos were taken on September 22 at Dalian shipyard in northern China, the same sight where the Liaoning, China’s first aircraft carrier, was repaired. That ex-Soviet carrier that was purchased from Ukraine in 1998 and has served as a training ship for the People’s Liberation Army Navy.

“Given the incomplete nature of the upper decks, definitive identification of the Dalian hull as the first so-called '001A' aircraft carrier is not possible,” the Jane’s Defence Weekly analysts write. “If not the 001A hull, the incomplete object possibly represents a new class of amphibious assault ship or helicopter carrier, as the comparatively slow pace of assembly suggests a military rather than commercial hull.”

The first images of the hull construction were taken on March 10 after photos taken in February suggested preparations were underway for the assembly of a new vessel. The current images suggest that the new hull, when completed, will have a length of at least 270 meters, or nearly 300 yards.

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IHS Jane’s reported last week that China had completed construction of a two-mile runway on Fiery Cross Reef, the largest island China has created in the disputed South China Sea.