China’s first home built aircraft carrier could eventually deploy the South China Sea

Beijing’s second aircraft carrier was “taking shape” after two years and nine months of construction, mainland Chinese media reported – a move likely to further unnerve Taiwan and other neighbors about their growing military assertiveness. Construction of the Shandong, named after province in China’s east coast, began in 2014, the mobile app of Shandong television and radio said in a report seen on Tuesday.

Reports are that the new aircraft carrier would eventually deploy to the South China Sea. However, this would not be until after a lengthy testing phase.

China’s second carrier, currently called the 001A or the Shandong, is being built at the same Dalian shipyard that renovated the Liaoning. The new carrier differs from the Liaoning, with its revised flight deck arrangement and other features, but retains the ski-jump bow used for launching aircraft.

The ship is expected to be launched in late 2017, and recent satellite photos of Plan’s Hulado air base show that the runway replicas constructed for pilots to practice landings underwent modifications between June and October 2016. According to China defense experts, this was done possibly to reflect differences in the new ship’s flight deck.

Images recently surfaced on Chinese social media platforms suggesting that Beijing may be developing a carrier with Catapult Assisted Take-Off But Arrested Recovery (CATOBAR), that can accommodate carrier onboard delivery (COD) aircraft, AEW and other large aircraft. This is plausible given the limitations of the arrested recovery (STOBAR) launching method, which limits the payload and range of shipborne aircraft.

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