BEIJING (AP) — Beijing launched a new-generation aircraft carrier Friday, the first such ship to be both designed and built in China, in a milestone as it seeks to extend the range and power of its navy.
The Type 003 carrier christened Fujian left its drydock at a shipyard outside Shanghai in the morning and tied up at a nearby pier, state media reports said.
State broadcaster CCTV showed assembled navy personnel standing beneath the massive ship as water jets sprayed over its deck, multi-colored streamers flew and colorful smoke was released.
Equipped with the latest weaponry and aircraft-launch technology, the Type 003 ship’s capabilities are thought to rival those of Western carriers, as Beijing seeks to turn its navy, already the world’s largest, into a multi-carrier force.
Satellite imagery captured by Planet Labs PBC on Thursday showed the carrier in what appeared to be a fully flooded drydock at the Jiangnan Shipyard, near Shanghai, ready for launch. It was draped with red bunting, presumably in preparation for the launch ceremony.
“This is an important milestone for China’s military-industrial complex,” said Ridzwan Rahmat, a Singapore-based analyst with the defense intelligence company Janes.
“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,” he said. “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.”
China’s first carrier was a repurposed Soviet ship, and its second was built in China but based upon a Soviet design. Both were built to employ a so-called “ski-jump” launch method for aircraft, with a ramp at the end of the short runway to help planes take off.