China’s third aircraft carrier takes shape, with ambitions to challenge U.S. naval dominance

Shipbuilders in Shanghai have laid out the hull of China’s first modern aircraft carrier, which could be launched into the water in the coming months as it enters the latter phases of construction, according to new satellite images and state media reports.

High-resolution photos recently obtained by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a nonpartisan think tank in Washington, show for the first time sections of the carrier being assembled in the open at a dry dock at the sprawling Jiangnan shipyard. The vessel, which will be China’s third carrier but the first to be equipped with modern technology, is likely to be larger than the previous two, which were based on outdated Soviet designs. At the waterline, the new ship will be about 1,000 feet long and 130 feet wide, the photos show.

Matthew Funaiole, a researcher at the CSIS ChinaPower project, said it is not yet clear from the images whether the new carrier will have an electromagnetic catapult to efficiently sling fighter jets off its deck — the biggest question mark over current Chinese carrier technology. The USS Gerald R. Ford, commissioned in 2017, was the first carrier to include the ­cutting-edge feature.

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