The launching of China’s third and largest aircraft carrier is likely to take place next year, State media in China reported on Wednesday, with a renewed push to take forward military modernisation plans amid a number of territorial and maritime disputes.
China one year ago launched its second aircraft carrier, the Shandong, which was the first to be built at home. It joined the Liaoning, which was developed by retrofitting a Soviet-era cruiser and commissioned in 2012. The Shandong, which has already been deployed in the Taiwan Straits and in the South China Sea, is only likely to be combat ready next year.
Two larger aircraft carriers are being built at the Jiangnan Shipyard near Shanghai, the first of which is likely to be launched in 2021, the Communist Party-run Global Times reported on Wednesday. This means it could be commissioned into service and be combat ready by 2023.
This will be China’s first that has an integrated electric propulsion system, an upgrade from its Soviet-modelled carriers, as well as an electromagnetic launch system for aircraft. Chinese strategic experts have previously said the PLA Navy is working towards six aircraft carriers, with two likely to be deployed in China’s near seas, including for the Taiwan Straits and the South China Sea, two for the western Pacific and two for the Indian Ocean.
The Global Times report said “modernising will continue… after an unsettling 2020”…and it noted the “major roles” played by the military in “the China-India border, the South China Sea and the Taiwan Straits”