Newly released commercial satellite imagery appears to show construction of China's first domestic aircraft carrier.
Imagery captured on Sept. 22 by Airbus Defense satellites and released on Thursday by IHS Jane's indicates China may be building its first aircraft carrier at Dalian shipyard in northern China, according to a report from Jane's.
The work is taking place in the same dry dock associated with the refit and repair of Liaoning (CV16), the Soviet-era Kuznetsov-class carrier acquired from Ukraine that is now in service with the People's Liberation Army Navy, according to the report by Sean O'Connor, a satellite imagery analyst at IHS Jane's, and James Hardy, Asia Pacific Editor at IHS Jane's Defence Weekly.
The hull, which was first spotted under construction in imagery captured on March 10, "is in an advanced state of assembly," they wrote.
"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," the authors wrote. "If not the 001A hull, the incomplete object possibly represents a new class of amphibious assault ship or helicopter carrier, as the comparatively slow pace of assembly suggests a military rather than commercial hull."
Chinese navy ships last month were spotted off the coast of Alaska for the first time. The discovery came the same week China held a massive military parade in Beijing to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Japanese surrender during World War II — and highlights its ambition to become a global military power.
The Pentagon last week also confirmed that Chinese fighter jets recently made an "unsafe" interception of an American spy plane in the Asia-Pacific region. A pair of JH-7 fighter-bombers, known in NATO parlance as Flounders, from the People’s Liberation Army came within 500 feet of an RC-135 from the U.S. Air Force last week over the Yellow Sea.