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China's most advanced aircraft carrier nears completion in 'symbol of growing military might'

Experts suggest that China’s most advanced aircraft carrier is near completion and could be launched soon.

Since 2018, the Jiangnan Shipyard in Shanghai has been working on Type 003, a new carrier.

Satellite images show that work is almost complete on the carrier’s launch, which has been anticipated for a long time.

The Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) has described it as a “symbol of China’s growing military might” and “seminal moment in China’s modernization efforts.”

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CSIS claims that China has in the past linked military milestones with holidays and anniversaries. It suggested that the vessel could launch as soon as Friday, to coincide with the National Dragon Boat Festival.

Satellite images taken Tuesday show that equipment behind the carrier has been removed. This is a step towards flooding the drydock and floating it.

Satellite images were not possible between Wednesday and Friday due to cloud coverage. Previous images had shown work being done.

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The Ministry of National Defence of China has not responded to our request for comment.

Although no launch date has been set, the state-run newspaper Global Times reported this week that it “could soon be launched”, adding that the Chinese navy had just released a promotional clip.

The United States estimates that the carrier will not be operational by 2024. It first needs to go through extensive sea trials. However, it is China’s most advanced.

The new carrier class will be equipped with a catapult-launch system that “will enable it to support additional fighter planes, fixed-wing early warning aircraft and more rapid flight operations and so extend the reach and effectiveness its carrier-based strikes aircraft,” the US Defence Department stated in November’s annual report to Congress.

Image: It appears that the equipment supporting the carrier has been removed. This is a step towards flooding the drydock and floating it. Pic by AP

“In particular, the PRC’s aircraft carriers (People’s Republic of China’s), and the planned follow-on carrier carriers, once operational will extend air defense coverage beyond the range of coast and shipboard missile system and will enable task groups operations at increasingly longer distances,” it stated, adding that the Chinese navy’s emerging need for sea-based land attack systems will increase the PRC’s power projection.

This development is part the larger modernization of China’s military capability as it seeks out to expand its influence in the region.

Although it has the world’s largest navy by number of ships, it does not have the same capabilities as the US Navy.

As the US has increased its focus on the region, the US is developing the carrier.

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