China launched its third and most advanced aircraft carrier on Friday, with improved capabilities and rivaling the US Navy’s carriers for size.
The Type-003 carrier was named “Fujian” and left its drydock at a shipyard outside Shanghai in the morning, according to an Associated Press report.
The new-generation aircraft carrier is believed to be equipped with the latest weaponry and aircraft-launch technology, rivaling that used by Western nations.
The launch of the new carrier comes at a time of growing tensions between China and the United States over Taiwan and is part of Beijing’s ambitious military modernization program.
China has a maritime force of 355 ships and submarines, according to the Pentagon, numerically the largest navy in the world. The US has far greater carrier power, though, with 11 aircraft carriers.
According to Naval News, the Type-003 is comparable in size to the US Navy’s Nimitz and Ford classes.
China’s newest aircraft carrier is a step forward from its previous designs, which were based on Soviet technology.
Another notable difference is that the Type-003 has switched from ski jump to catapults for launching its aircraft.
China’s older carriers launched aircraft under their own power via a ramp at the front of the flight deck. The Type-003 has three catapults, making it similar to the US Navy carriers.
Ridzwan Rahmat, a Singapore-based analyst with defense intelligence company Janes, said the launch was “an important milestone for China’s military-industrial complex.”
“This shows that Chinese engineers are now able to indigenously manufacture the full suite of surface combatants associated with modern naval warfare, including corvettes, frigates, destroyers, amphibious assault ships, and now an aircraft carrier.
“This ability to construct a very complex warship from the ground up will inevitably result in various spin-offs and benefits for the Chinese shipbuilding industry,” he told the AP.
A slogan written on the ship reveals the Chinese Communist Party’s desire for its Navy to continue to improve. “To build a strong and modern navy, and provide strong support for the realization of the Chinese dream of a strong military,” it read according to a Naval News translation.
“To realize the party’s goal of strengthening the army in the new era, and build the people’s army into a world-class army in an all-round way.”
China’s Navy, known as PLAN for People’s Liberation Army Navy, is part of the army (People’s Liberation Army).
Andreas Rupprecht, a defense expert and author of several books on the Chinese military, said the new carrier was “the next major step in exploring new capabilities. And gaining a lot of experience over the next years.”
“The PLAN is well aware that it has barely 10 years of operations. It is in no way comparable to the USN’s (US Navy’s) knowledge and understanding. But anyone who wants to walk, has to start with crawling…that’s what the Type-003 is for,” he told Naval News.
China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, was a converted ex-Soviet ship. Its second, the Shandong, China’s first domestically built carrier, was based on the Liaoning.