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China launches third aircraft carrier in major military milestone.

China launches third aircraft carrier in major military milestone.

China launched a new-generation aircraft carrier Friday, the first such ship to be both designed and built in China, in a milestone as it seeks to extend the range and power of its navy.

The Type 003 carrier christened Fujian left its drydock at a shipyard outside Shanghai in the morning and tied up at a nearby pier.

Equipped with the latest weaponry and aircraft-launch technology, the Type 003 ship’s capabilities are thought to rival those of Western carriers, as Beijing seeks to turn its navy, already the world’s largest, into a multi-carrier force.“This is an important milestone for China’s military-industrial complex,” said Ridzwan Rahmat, a Singapore-based analyst with the defense intelligence company Janes.

“This shows that Chinese engineers are now able to indigenously manufacture the full suite of surface combatants associated with modern naval warfare, including corvettes, frigates, destroyers, amphibious assault ships, and now an aircraft carrier,” he said. “This ability to construct a very complex warship from the ground up will inevitably result in various spin-offs and benefits for the Chinese shipbuilding industry.”

China’s first carrier was a repurposed Soviet ship, and its second was built in China but based upon a Soviet design. Both were built to employ a so-called “ski-jump” launch method for aircraft, with a ramp at the end of the short runway to help planes take off. Such a system puts less stress on the aircraft than older steam-type catapult launch systems, and the use of a catapult means that the ship will be able to launch a broader variety of aircraft, which is necessary for China to be able to project naval power at a greater range, Rahmat said.

“These catapults allow aircraft deployed to carry a more extensive load of weapons in addition to external fuel tanks,” Rahmat said.

“Once it is fully operational, the PLAN’s third carrier would also be able to deploy a more complete suite of aircraft associated with carrier strike group operations including carrier onboard delivery transport and airborne early warning and control airframes, such as the KJ-600.”

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