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China now has the world’s largest navy – with another new aircraft carrier set to be launched

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China now has the world’s largest navy and is preparing to launch a new high-tech aircraft carrier by February, the Pentagon has revealed.

Beijing has ‘numerically the largest navy in the world with an overall battle force of approximately 355 ships and submarines,’ the Defense Department said last Wednesday in its annual report on China.

That compares with 296 warships at the US Navy’s disposal, 69 vessels operated by the Royal Navy and 295 boats deployed by the Russian Navy.

Beijing is expected to add a third aircraft carrier in early 2022, dubbed Type-003, with satellite images from the shipyard published today indicating that it will rival the American super carriers.

Pictures of Jiangnan Shipyard from September to October show that significant progress has been made to the carrier’s external components and that works on other vessels in the yard appear to have slowed, perhaps because the Type-003 has taken precedence. 

Washington-based think-tank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, says that the carrier could be ready as early as February, stating that it ‘will launch in roughly three to six months.’

The US currently leads the world with 11 aircraft carriers, Britain operates two, including its brand new HMS Queen Elizabeth, while Russia owns a single carrier. 

China’s growing threat was underscored further as satellite pictures emerged of mock-ups of a US aircraft carrier and destroyer in its northwestern desert, believed to be used in wargames amid rising tensions between the nuclear-armed nations. 

Pictures of Jiangnan Shipyard from September to October show that significant progress has been made to the carrier's external components and that works on other vessels in the yard appear to have slowed, perhaps because the Type-003 has taken precedence.

Pictures of Jiangnan Shipyard from September to October show that significant progress has been made to the carrier’s external components and that works on other vessels in the yard appear to have slowed, perhaps because the Type-003 has taken precedence.

The Type-003 under construction in Jiangnan Shipyard in September. The vessel is expected to launch in February

The Type-003 under construction in Jiangnan Shipyard in September. The vessel is expected to launch in February

A number of People's Liberation Army Naval vessels are visible at various times in the floodable basin at Jiangnan Shipyard

A number of People’s Liberation Army Naval vessels are visible at various times in the floodable basin at Jiangnan Shipyard

China has built mock-ups of US aircraft carriers (pictured) in the country's northwestern desert, possibly in preparation for future naval strikes

China has built mock-ups of US aircraft carriers (pictured) in the country’s northwestern desert, possibly in preparation for future naval strikes

Satellite images captured by Colorado-based satellite imagery company Maxar Technologies dated Sunday show China has built a mock-up of a US destroyed in Ruoqiang, Xinjiang

Satellite images captured by Colorado-based satellite imagery company Maxar Technologies dated Sunday show China has built a mock-up of a US destroyed in Ruoqiang, Xinjiang

The independent US Naval Institute said on its website that the mock-ups of US ships (pictured, a rail terminus and target storage) were part of a new target range developed by the People's Liberation Army

The independent US Naval Institute said on its website that the mock-ups of US ships (pictured, a rail terminus and target storage) were part of a new target range developed by the People’s Liberation Army

Images captured by Colorado-based satellite imagery company Maxar Technologies dated Sunday show the outlines of the vessels sitting on sitting on a railway track.

Maxar identified the location as Ruoqiang, a Taklamakan Desert county in the northwestern Xinjiang region.

The independent U.S. Naval Institute said on its website that the mock-ups were part of a new target range developed by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

The USNI said it could identify features on the destroyer including its funnels and weapons systems.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a daily briefing Monday that he had no information about the images, saying, ‘I’m not aware of the situation you mentioned.’  

China’s massive military upgrade has emphasised countering the US and other countries’ naval forces.

That includes the development of land, sea and air-launched missiles to repel and possibly sink opposing vessels, expressed most emphatically by the land-based DF-21D ballistic missile known as the ‘carrier killer.’

Recent months have also seen a substantial increase in Chinese military flights just southwest of Taiwan, the self-governing island republic claimed by Beijing and which it threatens to annex by force.

Washington provides Taiwan with much of its weaponry and US law requires that it ensures the island can defend itself and treats threats to it as matters of ‘grave concern.’

The images released by Maxar come amid growing concerns over the possibility of military conflict between the world’s two biggest economies, who are at odds over a litany of political and economic issues.

The Pentagon this month issued a report saying China is expanding its nuclear force much faster than U.S. officials predicted just a year ago.

China's second aircraft carrier, the Shandong, was officially launched in 2020. It is the country's first domestically-built carrier

China’s second aircraft carrier, the Shandong, was officially launched in 2020. It is the country’s first domestically-built carrier

China's new Type-003 is believed to compete in size with America's super carriers (pictured: the USS Gerald R. Ford, constructed in 2017 and then-America's first new aircraft carrier design for 40 years)

China’s new Type-003 is believed to compete in size with America’s super carriers (pictured: the USS Gerald R. Ford, constructed in 2017 and then-America’s first new aircraft carrier design for 40 years)

That appears designed to enable Beijing to match or surpass U.S. global power by mid-century, the report said.

US defense officials have said they are increasingly wary of China’s intentions, largely with regard to the status of Taiwan.

‘The PLA’s evolving capabilities and concepts continue to strengthen (China’s) ability to `fight and win wars’ against a `strong enemy’ – a likely euphemism for the United States,’ the report said.

China’s navy and coast guard are also adding new vessels at a record pace, concentrating them in the South China Sea, the strategic waterway that China claims virtually in its entirety.

While the US Navy remains predominant, its resources are divided between the Indo-Pacific, the Persian Gulf, the Mediterranean and other regions where American interests lie. 

Tensions have soared with the United States in recent weeks after Washington announced the new Aukus security pact with the UK and Australia, which is designed to counter China’s threat in the Indo-Pacific. 

Despite China’s overall numerical naval advantage, the number of aircraft carriers is crucial as these vessels act as floating fortresses and represent a formidable strategic obstacle for the enemy to overcome.

Beijing’s latest carrier, the second it has built domestically, is reported to possess electromagnetic catapults for launching jets off the deck and to be powered by hybrid electric propulsion. 

Its launch early next year will be keenly watched by Washington which was recently caught off guard after it emerged that China had launched a hypersonic nuclear missile in August.

The hypersonic missiles can reach speeds of up to 21,000mph and can strike anywhere on Earth from space within minutes.  

China launched the dummy weapon into space on board a Long March 2C rocket (pictured) during a test in mid-August which it did not disclose at the time and was only revealed at the weekend by security analysts assigned to work out its purpose

China launched the dummy weapon into space on board a Long March 2C rocket (pictured) during a test in mid-August which it did not disclose at the time and was only revealed at the weekend by security analysts assigned to work out its purpose

Pictured: China launches the Shenzhou-13 spacecraft on October 16, carried on the Long March-2F carrier rocket, to Chinese Tiangong space station

Pictured: China launches the Shenzhou-13 spacecraft on October 16, carried on the Long March-2F carrier rocket, to Chinese Tiangong space station

China is thought to have carried out two tests of a hypersonic orbital nuke - the first on July 27 and the second on August 13 this year. Observers believe the 'weapon' is an updated version of a Soviet concept called a 'Fractional Orbital Bombardment System', or FOBS

China is thought to have carried out two tests of a hypersonic orbital nuke – the first on July 27 and the second on August 13 this year. Observers believe the ‘weapon’ is an updated version of a Soviet concept called a ‘Fractional Orbital Bombardment System’, or FOBS

The Pentagon’s report said that the Communist Party has set out to achieve a ‘great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation’ by 2049 and that investment in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) was a cornerstone of this nationalist ambition. 

President Xi Jinping says he wants ‘basically complete’ PLA modernization by 2035 and to transform the PLA into a ‘world class’ military by 2049.

Beijing is investing heavily not just in conventional warfare but also ‘focusing on information, cyber, and space and counterspace operations,’ the report states.

‘Throughout 2020, the PLA continued to pursue its ambitious modernization objectives, refine major organizational reforms, and improve its combat readiness in line with those goals,’ it adds.

‘This includes the PLA developing the capabilities to conduct joint long-range precision strikes across domains, increasingly sophisticated space, counterspace, and cyber capabilities, and accelerating the large-scale expansion of its nuclear forces.’ 



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