China’s third and most advanced aircraft carrier will likely be launched soon, according to new satellite imagery of the vessel. The carrier, called the Type 003, has been under construction near Shanghai since 2018. Satellite images taken by Planet Labs late May suggest work on the vessel is nearing completion, The Epoch Times reported. The launch has been long anticipated and was expected on June 3 with the beginning of China’s Dragon Boat Festival. Chinese authorities reportedly delayed the launch, however, saying only that more work was needed before the vessel would be ready. The carrier’s deck is visible in the images and equipment behind the carrier has been removed in an apparent step toward flooding the dry dock and floating the vessel. The Type 003 has been in development since 2015 and though it likely won’t be fully operational until 2024, it will be China’s first fully modern aircraft carrier. It is markedly different from the nation’s two other carriers, the Liaoning and Shandong, in that it will likely be equipped with electromagnetic launch catapults that will allow it to field aircraft with heavier payloads and more fuel. Currently, only the United States and France field aircraft carriers equipped with such catapult systems.
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