IHS Jane’s first noted preparations for a new vessel’s assembly at the dry dock in Airbus Defence and Space imagery captured on 27 February. After the launch of a large commercial cargo vessel, the empty dry dock contained multiple support blocks used to provide a base for keel assembly. On 10 March, further imagery showed the initial stages of hull construction. At the time, the support layout suggested a hull of 150 to 170 m in length with a beam of about 30 m.
The hull assembly continued through the summer. Imagery from 22 September shows a lengthened aft section and expanded bow. The hull is currently assessed to have a length of about 240 meters and a beam of about 35 meters. The incomplete bow suggests a length of at least 270 meters for the completed hull.
Given the incomplete nature of the upper decks, definitive identification of the Dalian hull as the first so-called ‘001A’ aircraft carrier is not possible. It is believed that the type 001A is about 55,000 to 67,500 tons. The tonnage depends upon which Russian design is being copied and modified. The new ship will use a conventional propulsion package, have the large, phased array radars already installed on the Liaoning‘s island structure, and also have 40 to 45 J-15 or Su-33 fighters.
Airbus Defence and Space imagery shows an overview of Dalian shipyard in China. Source: CNES 2015, Distribution Airbus DS / 2015 IHS