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.
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.
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.