The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy, which is the world’s largest Navy, is all set to get bigger with the launch its third aircraft carrier likely to take place this year.
A report by China’s Ordnance Industry Science Technology, a Xi’an-based defense magazine, on Friday, stated that construction of the warship was running "smoothly" and it could be launched by the end of 2020, or latest by early 2021.
The US Department of Defense’s 2020 annual report to Congress on Chinese military power released recently stated: “The People’s Republic of China has the largest navy in the world, with an overall battle force of approximately 350 ships and submarines including over 130 major surface combatants. In comparison, the U.S. Navy’s battle force is approximately 293 ships as of early 2020.”
A dock at Shanghai-based Jiangnan Shipyard was cleared in June, after which the hull sections of what are believed to be the country's third aircraft carrier were brought in for final assembly.
The Shipyard, a subsidiary of state-owned China State Shipbuilding Corp Ltd, launched its first large floating dry dock to transport ultra-large ship modules, this May. The dry dock is a container-shaped, half-open non-propelled ship with a length of 250 meters, width of 60 meters, depth of seven meters and draft of 4.8 meters. It is capable of carrying a maximum cargo of 32,000 tons.
Photographs of the vessel taken in September “showed the warship in its general shape with only bulbous bow missing,” Chinese media reported Sunday. Construction of the warship will be completed in November or December after which its launch will take place followed by fitting-out stage.
“The launch date would need to be decided based on the actual progress of construction,” Li Jie, a military expert, was quoted as saying by Global Times.
China Central Television reported in 2019 that China's third aircraft carrier was under construction at the Jiangnan Shipyard.
Launching of the third aircraft carrier was earlier expected to take place in about two years and be combat ready by 2025. The warship will reportedly feature an electromagnetic catapult launch system and stealth fighter jets. A catapult launch system is said to cut down aircraft release time by a third. In addition, it will enable the launch of large attack drones and fixed-wing early-warning aircraft.
Recently, the PLAN sent two aircraft carriers - Shandong and Liaoning - on training voyages in the Bohai Sea and Yellow Sea respectively.