China looks set to launch the country’s third aircraft carrier, Type 003, on Friday, which will coincide with the Dragon Boat Festival, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported citing sources.
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Last week, the Maritime Safety Administration reportedly issued a notice requesting that berths at the Jiangnan Shipyard on Changxing Island, where the battleship is being built, be vacated for an operation.
The launch, which will take place from 5.30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday, will comprise five platforms, three tugboats, and two salvage ships. Experts suggested that the Jiangnan shipyard is ready to launch the country’s third aircraft carrier.
Lu Li-shih, a former instructor at the Taiwanese Naval Academy, was quoted by SCMP as saying, “The latest satellite imagery shows Type 003 had been blocked by a huge ship segment – this was done so that passing commercial ships couldn’t see the construction.
That segment will have to be moved so that they can launch the Type 003 by sliding it into the water.”
He went on to say that the launch would signal the end of the dry dock’s building work and that the ship would then undergo tests and equipment installation depending on sea trials.
Delays In Type 003’s Development
Since 2017, the Type 003 aircraft carrier has been under development at the Jiangnan Shipyard on Shanghai’s Changxing Island, with a scheduled launch date earlier this year.
Unlike the country’s first two aircraft carriers, the Liaoning and the Shandong, Type 003 will have a flat-top flight deck with three electromagnetic catapults, similar to the world’s most sophisticated aircraft launch systems.
Beijing’s Type 003 battleship, however, is not nuclear-powered. But there have been speculations that the country’s fourth aircraft carrier will use nuclear reactors to power it.
The new aircraft carrier is anticipated to be named Jiangsu, following the tradition of naming boats after coastal provinces from north to south.
The EurAsian Times had previously reported that the third aircraft carrier was supposed to be launched on April 23 to commemorate the 73rd anniversary of the PLA Navy, but it was postponed due to the Covid-19 outbreak in Shanghai.
A military official acquainted with China’s aircraft carrier projects told SCMP that the latest anticipated launch would coincide with the Dragon Boat Festival. “The aircraft carrier needs to go into sea trials as soon as possible – it may take several years to achieve initial operational capability,” said the insider, pointing to the basic prerequisites for deploying a warship.
The shipyard has been trying to keep up with Shanghai’s Covid-19 limitations, according to the military insider, with over 4,000 workers back at the action on the aircraft carrier since late April.
On Chinese social media, Beijing-based naval expert Li Jie predicted that this Friday would be a “good day for the birth of the ‘third child,'” referring to the warship’s nickname. “It implies the vessel is the country’s dragon boat – a good blessing,” he said.
Li further said that “time is precious” for the aircraft carrier. “The installation of all of the weapon systems and the activation of its propulsion system will only start after the hull is proven to have no leaks once it goes into the water.”
The latest development comes after the Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning completed a three-week naval exercise in the Western Pacific under the watchful eye of foreign counterparts. The exercise was said to be intended to dissuade Taiwan’s independence-minded forces.
These maneuvers heightened regional tensions as Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi stated that the Liaoning conducted more than 300 fighter jet and helicopter sorties in waters off Okinawa over three weeks.
He also stated that the drills were most likely intended to boost the PLA Navy’s combat capability on open seas. The drills included Z-18F anti-submarine helicopters and Z-18J early-warning choppers, according to Japan’s Defense Ministry.
China also recently chastised Japan for performing “dangerous” close-range tracking of PLA Navy drills in the West Pacific, suggesting that Tokyo’s activities threaten the safety of both sides.
The Liaoning can purportedly accommodate 36 aircraft, including 24 J-15 fighters, six Z-18F, four Z-18J helicopters, and two Z-9C rescue helicopters.
According to experts, the Liaoning aircraft carrier has been operating at full capacity since 2017, when it achieved initial operational capability, which is one of the necessary conditions for a combat-ready warship.