China has postponed the launch of its Type 003 aircraft carrier originally scheduled for today.
The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) delayed the planned launch due to logistical problems as a result of a surge in COVID-19 cases, which triggered an extended lockdown in Shanghai. It’s unclear for how long the release will be delayed, but upon launch the Type 003 will be China’s third aircraft carrier and the first capable of launching aircraft through a hydraulic catapult and recovering the aircraft with sophisticated arrestor wiring.
China intends to produce four carriers by the end of 2022 as part of its ambition to be the most powerful and advanced blue-water navy by 2030. China’s effort to upscale its military hardware indicates its urge to take control over the South China Sea and, eventually, Taiwan. China views the presence of external powers like the US as an intervention in its competing regional maritime claims.
Given the severe Shanghai outbreak, expect the delayed carrier construction to finish by summer. Amid the US Navy’s Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOP) in the South China Sea, the carrier’s construction will directly feed China’s blue water aspirations of exercising sea control at long range. Consequently, this will increase the threat of confrontations in the South China Sea and beyond.
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Promod is an Analyst on the Analysis team.