High resolution private satellite images gathered and analyzed by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) seems to suggest that China is rapidly expanding its aircraft carrier construction infrastructure in the area around the shipyard where they currently have one carrier in production. Based on the level of construction shown in pictures taken in April and September of last year, it appears likely that China will have the capacity to rapidly produce carriers and other large vessels within the next 12 months.
“We can see slow but steady progress on the hull, but I think the really surprising thing these images show is the extensive infrastructure buildup that has gone on simultaneously,” said CSIS analyst Matthew Funaiole.
“It is hard to imagine all this is being done for just one ship. This looks more like a specialized space for carriers and or other larger vessels.”
This revelation is in keeping with an assertion made by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies earlier this year, in which they pointed out that China’s ship-building endeavor has turned the corner toward larger surface combatant ships. According to their assessment, this shift points to a larger overall shift in emphasis for the People’s Liberation Army-Navy, with an increasing focus on power competition with the U.S.’ massive naval presence around the world. China has, however, stopped highlighting the launch of new ships in their state-run media, making it increasingly difficult to know exactly what is being built and what is being launched without maintaining a close eye on shipyards and the occasional mention of new vessels in Chinese media. The construction of a third aircraft carrier, tentatively dubbed the Type 002, has not yet been formally announced by the Chinese government, for instance — but its development has been mentioned a handful of times by state officials and journalists employed by China’s state-owned media.