Satellite images of the PLA’s new asset – the Type 003 carrier – suggest that China is making “considerable progress” on the military ship, with the flight deck and superstructure showing signs of completion. The ship under development at the Jiangyan shipyard near Shanghai is set to enhance Beijing’s naval capabilities and will be the largest and most technologically advanced ship ever built outside the United States for decades.
Pentagon officials believe the US’s new Gerald R. Ford-class supercarriers will dominate any conflict with China, but said the ship marks a leap forward in Beijing’s military might.
Rear Admiral Mark Montgomery, a retired commander of the strike group of the aircraft carrier USS George Washington based in Japan, told the Washington Times that China was approaching US capabilities.
He said: “China is closing the technology gap with the United States, except for nuclear propulsion.”
Not much is known about the new carrier, but reports suggest the Chinese ship is around 318 meters long, only a few meters away from similar US ships.
Eric Sayers, a former advisor to the commander of the US Pacific Command, said China is building two navies at the same time: one for “neighboring seas” and the other for offshore operations.
He told Foreign Policy: “The trend is that China is attempting to build a blue water navy, and that is what this third vector and the plan beyond represents.
“This is more for projecting power into the Indo-Pacific and beyond.”
Sayers added, “It is certainly enough to keep the commander of the US Pacific Fleet awake at night.
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Wu Qian, a spokesman for the Chinese ministry, threatened that any forays into Chinese airspace would trigger “serious consequences”.
Speaking of what the new carrier’s development means for China’s military actions in the South China Sea, Jerry Hendrix, a retired Navy captain and former US Department of Defense official, believes China will become more aggressive.
“I think they will become more confrontational,” he said.
“With their aircraft carriers, they may think they will be able to establish control of the sea long enough to carry out an amphibious assault.
“They are moving beyond having aircraft carriers as mere platforms of prestige, and they are moving towards something much more complex.
“They are moving to a power projection platform that can launch the ordinance at a greater distance.”
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