China To Fast-Track Its Third Aircraft Carrier; Expected To Be Launched By End Of 2020

As China continues to feel threatened by the growing US presence in the region who is also arming its neighbors with advanced US technology, China could possibly launch its third aircraft carrier by end of 2020 or early 2021, according to reports.

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Earlier, there were reports that China is aggressively working on its third and fourth aircraft carriers at the Jiangnan shipyard in Shanghai which many media outlets in China including state-run Global Times predicted could be launched by 2025.

“The Type 002 aircraft carrier—the country’s third carrier and the second to be domestically developed—has started the final assembly process,” the SCMP had reported, citing its sources. It reported that work on the third aircraft carrier had slowed down due to the COVID-19 pandemic which could delay the process.

The latest reports suggest that that work is advancing seamlessly and the launch of the warship could be near. Another report by a Chinese defense magazine predicted that the carrier could be launched as soon as the end of 2020, although many experts believe that the launch could also take place in early 2021.

Citing pictures taken commercial satellite widely circulated on social media, Ordnance Industry Science Technology, a Chinese defense magazine cites by Global Times reported that a dock at Shanghai-based Jiangnan Shipyard was cleared in June, after which the hull sections of what is believed to be the country’s third aircraft carrier were brought in for final assembly.

If everything goes well, the third aircraft carrier should be completed in November or December, be launched by the end of the year, and then be fitted out, the report stated.

Naval expert Li Jie told the Global Times that the launch date of the aircraft carrier would need to be decided based on the tangible progress of construction. While that could occur by the end of the year as the report said, it could also take place in early 2021, which is more likely, if the work goes according to plan.

shandong carrier
China’s Shandong aircraft carrier | China’s Ministry of National Defense

According to SCMP, the construction for the second Type 002 will be faster than the first one because engineers have learned and succeeded in tackling a lot of obstacles building the first aircraft carrier. It’s a challenging job because Type 002 is the country’s first domestically designed aircraft carrier.

Unlike the Shandong, China’s second aircraft carrier, the third one used a more advanced construction method, in which large hull sections were built in different places and sent to the final assembly site for assembly, Ordnance Industry Science Technology reported, noting that this method can shorten the construction time.

The third and fourth carriers are beleived to be different in design from the Liaoning and Shandong aircraft carriers and will be significantly larger. Based on the analysis of satellite imagery, the US think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies has estimated that the third aircraft carrier would have a displacement of up to 85,000 tonnes almost double than that of INS Vikramaditya.