China is close to launching a new, advanced aircraft carrier, in a move that will expand its navy’s military might in the contested South China Sea.
Recent satellite imagery shows China’s third carrier, known as the Type 003, being assembled in Shanghai’s Jiangnan Shipyard.
The images taken on May 31 by Maxar Technologies show the dry dock, where the ship has been under construction for the past two years, cleared of smaller ships and partially flooded, indicating a float-out could be nearing.
The Type 003 is China’s largest and most advanced aircraft carrier, using new electromagnetic catapult aircraft launchers, similar to those on U.S. and French carriers.
Analysts believe progress will likely continue apace, increasing the naval fleet to as many as six aircraft carriers.
The Type 003 is the first to be built indigenously by China. Its first aircraft carrier was a former Soviet vessel and its second was of a design similar to the first.
Once the Type 003 is launched into the Yangtze River, it will likely be moored to one of Jiangnan Shipyard’s nearby piers for fitting out, before being put to sea in 2024.