Military experts assess the government China is hinting to be showing off aircraft carrier third belongs to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in the near future.
For information, China already has two aircraft carriers in operation, the Liaoning and the Shandong.
In a video that is about six minutes long produced by the PLA Navy’s Political Publicity Bureau and military broadcaster on Friday (22/4) yesterday. The video shows a glimpse of China’s aircraft carrier program and how PLA operators and personnel operate.
At the end of the video, an officer is shown receiving a call from his mother apparently urging him to have a ‘third child’, to which the man replies ‘It is being arranged. The video view then switches to two photos of the carrier’s flight deck, before switching to a blank screen and ending with the closing credits.
Launch Radio Free Asia (RFA), the ‘weird’ signal made a number of Chinese media excited. The state-run magazine Global Times wrote, “This is a very clear implication that the three countries’ aircraft carriers are coming soon,” they wrote.
Compared to the first two carriers, the Type 003 aircraft carrier is noticeably larger, and has several important new components including the catapult system, which is used to launch aircraft from ships.
The Global Times further quoted Song Zhongping, who is a military expert and Chinese TV commentator. Zhongping said that the third carrier, known as Type 003, could be launched by mid-2022. The carrier is likely to be named Jiangsu, a name after a province in eastern China.
“From the video, it seems that China’s third aircraft carrier will be launched in the near future,” said Sheu Jyh-Shyang, a military expert at Taiwan’s National Defense and Security Research Institute (INDSR).
“This is China’s first CATOBAR (Catapult Assisted Take-Off Barrier Arrested Recovery) aircraft carrier. CATOBAR has much better capabilities, but they still need sufficient operating experience,” he added.
The US Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank later said in a report last November that China’s third aircraft carrier launch could have been as early as February 2022, but had been delayed several times as China was battling the Covid-19 pandemic.
A CSIS report last November also said that after the launch of its third carrier, China would still have years before the Type 003 was put into service for the PLA Navy.
On the other hand, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense said in a report published earlier this year that the Type 003 would allow the PLA Navy to project power across the ‘first island chain’.
The first island chain, conceptualized during the Cold War, usually refers to a large archipelago located off the coast of mainland East Asia. The chain stretches from the Kamchatka Peninsula in the northeast to the Malay Peninsula in the southwest, and includes the territory of US allies Taiwan and the Philippines.
The Taiwan observer then also paid attention to the PLA’s plan to procure a new fighter aircraft for the Type 003.
“The first two (carrier carriers) only have J-15 fighters and maybe a few helicopters, but the third one may have some KJ-600 airborne early warning and control aircraft,” the observer said.