Following the successful trials of its first home-built aircraft carrier scheduled to be commissioned by the end of this year, China plans to begin construction on a second, even larger ship as early as this summer, the Asia Times reported on Tuesday.
It would be China’s third aircraft carrier in the country’s naval fleet as Beijing continues to modernize its navy in order to compete with the likes of Japan and the United States.
Kanwa Defense Review, a Hong-Kong based online magazine, revealed that the designs and construction drawings of the new carrier have been finalized, and around 1,000 workers have already signed contracts in order to being working on the project.
Satellite images of the Shanghai Jiangnan Shipyard on Changxing Island also showed new activity at a large ship docking area that is used for construction. The berth has been extended to about 620 meters and includes a new scaffolding shelter structure, approximately 390 meters in length.
While the berth is already large enough to handle something as massive as an aircraft carrier, the area also hints at the possibility of further expansion.
The size of the berth also suggests that China’s next aircraft carrier will likely be even bigger than its first two – the Liaoning and its currently unnamed sister ship.
As far as its potential capabilities, Kanwa Defense Review said that the new ship will have similar steam turbo engines as the previous ships while utilizing new launch pads for aircraft. The launch pads could either be conventional, steam-powered systems or China’s new experimental induction motors that utilize an electromagnetic system.
The carrier is designed to hold a total of 48 fighter jets – almost twice the capacity of the Liaoning. The next-generation aircraft carrier might also have its own long-range early warning aircraft, as well.
The size of China’s upcoming ship, with a load displacement of 85,000 tons, puts it on par with the U.S. Navy’s Kitty Hawk, an oil-fired carrier that was decommissioned in 2009. By comparison, the largest U.S. aircraft carrier currently in service, the USS Gerald R. Ford, handles more than 75 aircraft and has a load displacement of more than 100,000 tons.
China has poured billions of new dollars into its military program in recent years, though their overall defense budget still pales in comparison to the U.S. President Trump has pledged nearly $650 billion for the military for 2018, while China will spend roughly $151 billion on its own defenses through 2018.