Type 003 aircraft carrier
|Operators:||People's Liberation Army Navy|
|Preceded by:||Type 002 aircraft carrier|
|Succeeded by:||Type 004 aircraft carrier|
|Displacement:||More than 85,000 tonnes|
|Propulsion:||Conventional with integrated electric propulsion|
|Aviation facilities:||Hangar deck|
The Type 003 aircraft carrier is a planned aircraft carrier of the People's Liberation Army Navy's aircraft carrier programme. The Type 003 will be the first indigenously built Chinese aircraft carrier to feature an integrated electric propulsion system. This will allow the operation of electromagnetic launch catapults. The Type 003 would be the first Chinese aircraft carrier to have CATOBAR capabilities, whereas the first two carriers were only STOBAR-capable.
China's military did not officially confirm the designation of the Shandong carrier before it was commissioned. This led the observers to believe that it would be designated as "Type 001A" and China's third aircraft carrier as "Type 002". However, with the commissioning of the Shandong as Type 002, observers now believe China's third carrier class will be designated Type 003. Owing to the secretive nature of China's aircraft carrier program, information regarding the official naming and designation of the carriers will likely not be revealed until commissioning.
Rear Admiral Yin Zhuo of the People's Liberation Army Navy said in 2013 that China's next aircraft carrier would be equipped with an electromagnetic aircraft launch system. Multiple prototypes were spotted by media in 2012, and aircraft capable of electromagnetic launching were tested in Chinese Navy research facilities.
Construction of the carrier began in the mid-2010s, although the precise date is not known. The National Interest reported that construction began in March 2015, while The Diplomat said that "initial work" had begun in February 2016, followed by a notice to proceed given to the Shanghai Jiangnan Shipyard Group in March 2017.
Construction of the Type 003 carrier was reportedly delayed in June 2017 while the Navy tested electromagnetic and steam-powered catapult systems. By November 2017, the Navy had reportedly developed a new means of powering electromagnetic catapults with conventional power sources instead of nuclear reactors, and further work on the Type 003 was due to resume shortly. The design breakthrough was led by Rear Admiral Ma Weiming.
The ship is expected to be launched in 2021 and enter active service in 2023. It is estimated to have an aircraft capacity of about 40 fighter aircraft, in addition to several propeller-powered transport and airborne early warning and control aircraft, all operated by pilots of the People's Liberation Army Navy Air Force.
On 7 May 2019, the Center for Strategic and International Studies identified overhead imagery of the hull under construction in satellite photographs. The images showed a bow section that appeared to end with a flat 30-metre (98-foot) front and a separate hull section 41 metres wide, suggesting a vessel larger than the unbuilt 85,000-ton Soviet aircraft carrier Ulyanovsk, but smaller than the 100,000-ton supercarriers of the United States Navy. Its displacement and capabilities have also been compared with those of the American 1960s-era Kitty Hawk-class aircraft carrier.
The block modules were moved from the manufacturing facility to the staging area in May 2020, then into dry dock in July 2020. By early September that year, almost all of the blocks of the ship were in dry dock, with only the foremost part of the ship's bow missing. Using satellite and aerial photography, cumulative hull length was estimated at approximately 300 metres, nearly as long as the 305-metre Liaoning and Shandong, with a beam of about 40 metres at its widest point. While initial projections suggested an 85,000-ton displacement, these dimensions suggested the carrier's displacement would be even larger.
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