Is China building its first homegrown aircraft carrier?

This post is appearing on Autoblog Military, Autoblog's sub-site dedicated to the vehicles, aircraft and ships of the world's armed forces.

We have a different kind of spy photo for you today, and it comes from China. Satellite photos reveal that it looks like the People's Liberation Army Navy is working on its first homegrown aircraft carrier.

China already operates a carrier – the Liaoning, shown above, is a Russian Admiral Kuznetsov-class that was transferred to the Ukraine after the fall of the Soviet Union, and was purchased and completed by the PRC – as a training vessel. It's unclear what role this new carrier would fulfill, but we somehow doubt it'd be used merely for training.

According to IHS Jane's 360, the carrier was first spotted by French satellites in a dry dock formerly used to build large commercial ships on March 10. While the initial images revealed what analysts believed was a 490 to 560-foot-long hull with a roughly 100-foot beam, more recent images snapped earlier this month have led to revised estimates. It's now believed that the vessel's hull is currently about 790 feet long, a figure that will grow to 885 feet with a 115-foot beam by the time it's completed.

That's smaller overall than the Liaoning, which is nearly 1,000 feet with an overall beam of 246 feet, and it's positively tiny compared to the US Navy's 1,100-foot Gerald R. Ford-class. Still, an aircraft carrier is a remarkably complex piece of machinery, and the fact that China is capable of producing one is certainly something worth noting.

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