High-resolution satellite images show that the construction of China’s first full-sized aircraft carrier is progressing steadily alongside expansive infrastructure work that analysts say suggests the ship will be the first of several large vessels produced at the site.
The images of the Jiangnan shipyard outside Shanghai were taken last month and provided to Reuters by the non-partisan Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), building on satellite photos it obtained in April and September last year.
Noting a series of pre-fabricated sections, bulkheads and other components stacked nearby, CSIS analysts say the hull should be finished within 12 months, after which it is likely to be moved to a newly created harbour and wharf before being fitted out.
The vast harbour on the Yangtze River estuary, including a wharf nearly 1 kilometre long and large buildings for manufacturing ship components, is nearly complete. Much of the harbour area appeared to be abandoned farmland just a year ago, according to earlier images CSIS analysed.
It dwarfs an existing harbour nearby, where destroyers and other warships are docked.
“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,” he added. “This looks more like a specialised space for carriers and or other larger vessels.”