China Readying the Launch of Third Aircraft Carrier; Tension Escalates in The Disputed Waters

A six-minute video by the Peoples Liberation Army Navy hints at the possible launch of the country's third aircraft carrier very soon. The promotional video provided a sneak peek into the Chinese aircraft carrier program and its operation, giving a rather clear indication of the aircraft carrier in production. The other two Chinese aircraft carriers are Liaoning and Shandong.

The state run media, Global Times, expressed the excitement brewing within the Chinese media by stating that, "this is a very clear implication that the country's third aircraft carrier is coming soon." The excitement of the netizens also knew no bounds as they left comments such as, "I'm so excited"; "Will there be a livestream for the launch event?"; "The Type 003 is coming, when will the new J-31 carrier-based fighter jet come?"

According to the Global Times, the aircraft was initially planned to be launched on the 23rd of April but the complications due to the coronavirus surge in Shanghai, the port where the carrier is being built led to the postponing of the launch. The Xinhua News Agency was the first to confirm the construction of the third aircraft carrier through an official report in November 2018.

Below is the video released by the PLA navy on Friday:

At the end of the video, an officer is seen taking a call from his mother who appears to urge him to have "the third child," to which the man replies: "That's being arranged."

Quoting a Chinese military expert and TV commentator, Song Zhongping, the Global Times reports that the launch could be scheduled "in the second half of 2022"

Song later explained, "according to the general pattern of aircraft carrier construction, it would take three to four years to launch a new carrier after the start of construction, and the third carrier should also follow this pattern, but since the new carrier features a number of new technologies, so it might take a little longer."

The third carrier would be known as Type 003 and referred to as Jiangsu, after the province in the eastern part of the country.

When compared with Liaoning and Shandong, this third carrier is expected to be larger in size with the possession of some interesting features such as an electromagnetic catapult system that can be further utilized to for the launch of aircrafts directly from the ships.

Sheu Jyh-Shyang, a military analyst at the Taiwan's Institute for National Defence and SecurityResearch (INDSR), explains "this is the first CATOBAR (Catapult Assisted Take-Off Barrier Arrested Recovery) carrier that China has. These carriers have much better capabilities, they still need to have enough operating experience."

China Navy Aircraft Carrier

The November 2021 CSIS report stated that post launch, it would still take quite a few years before the carrier is dispatched into the PLA Navy and accomplishes the basic operating potency.
In an effort to expand its combat capabilities the Chinese have already launched half a dozen warships and vessel-based helicopters on the occasion of the 73rd anniversary of the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN).

According to Wion news, there were six new ships launched including the Type 075 amphibious assault ships, three large two Type 052D destroyers. Dubbed as Hainan, Shaoxing and Baotou respectively. Hainan was dispatched in the South China Sea, Shaoxing participated in the eastern theatre drills and Baotou was involved in the military exercises in the Yellow Sea.

Type 052D guided-missile destroyer, the Nanning was also dispatched in 2021 amidst heavy tensions in the South China Sea with the United States. The Chaganhu and Qilianshan, an amphibious dock landing ship was incorporated to be a part of the exercise in company with the Nanning.

The quick as a wink deployment of these destroyers has not only contributed towards escalating tensions in the disputed territories but have simultaneously drawn attention from NATO and the United States.

Even though the Chinese are known to possess the biggest naval fleet in the world, but the Americans are the owners of more aircraft carriers: 11 compared to China's two.

International Response

Since the Chinese consider Taiwan a 'breakaway province', it aims to unite the island with the mainland as soon as possible. The Liaoning therefore is observed to be consistently monitoring the Taiwan Strait and is also assumed by experts to be dispatched any time if ab armed conflict is expected to arise with Taiwan.

Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense is also actively monitoring China's military developments, stated in a report published earlier this year that the new Type 003 would allow the PLA Navy to project power past the "first island chain."

The first island chain came into being in the midst of the Cold War and was defined as the first line of defense to keep in check the spread of the Soviet influence and its allied socialist countries in East and Southeast Asia. The chain stretches from the Kamchatka Peninsula in the northeast to the Malay Peninsula in the southwest, and includes the territory of U.S. allies Taiwan and the Philippines, as explained by Radio Free Asia (RFA).

Taiwanese experts are also believed to pay close attention to the PLA's scheme in order to purchase new warplanes for the Type 003.

With Beijing's demonstrations of live-fire drills and deployment of hundreds of fishing vessels to a Philippines claimed reef have increasingly strained relations in maritime waters claimed by both China and many of its neighbours.

China Navy Aircraft Carrier
Aerial View of the Shanghai Port Twitter

China continues to flex its capability in the disputed waters challenging and retaliating to the West. The USS Curtis Wilbur was recently forced to drive away from the disputed waters near islands which are allegedly claimed by the Chinese.

People's Liberation Army Southern Theatre Command Spokesperson Colonel Tian Junli said in a notice posted on social media that the US actions "increase regional security risks, which easily causes misunderstandings, misjudgements and unforeseen maritime incidents."

In a move to assert its 'historic rights' across most of the South China Sea, China frequently invokes the so-called nine-dash line to justify and by doing that it seems as if the country has turned a blind eye to the 2016 international tribunal decision that proclaimed this declaration as baseless, the Wion reports.

President Biden has pledged a strong defence of allies and has endorsed a rather strong 'pushback' against Chinese assertiveness. In the meantime, the United States continues to caution China against what are perceived as 'increasingly aggressive moves' by the Philippines and Taiwan, as a reminder of Washington's commitments to its partners.

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