Airbus Defence and Space imagery shows an overview of Dalian shipyard in China.
Source: CNES 2015, Distribution Airbus DS / 2015 IHS

Key Points

  • An unidentified hull in an advanced state of construction at Dalian shipyard could be China's first indigenous aircraft carrier
  • While a conclusive identification of the hull as an aircraft carrier cannot be made until work is observed on the upper decks and potential flight deck, the slow pace of assembly and outline suggests a military hull under construction
Satellite imagery suggests that China may be building its first aircraft carrier at Dalian shipyard in northern China.

Airbus Defence and Space imagery captured on 22 September suggests that the possible carrier is under construction in the dry dock associated with the refit and repair of Liaoning (CV16), the Soviet-era Kuznetsov-class carrier acquired from Ukraine that is now in People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) service.

The new hull, first noted under construction in imagery captured on 10 March, is in an advanced state of assembly.

IHS Jane's first noted preparations for a new vessel's assembly at the dry dock in Airbus Defence and Space imagery captured on 27 February. After the launch of a large commercial cargo vessel, the empty dry dock contained multiple support blocks used to provide a base for keel assembly. On 10 March, further imagery showed the initial stages of hull construction. At the time, the support layout suggested a hull of 150 to 170 m in length with a beam of about 30 m.

The hull assembly continued through the summer. Imagery from 22 September shows a lengthened aft section and expanded bow. The hull is currently assessed to have a length of about 240 m and a beam of about 35 m. The incomplete bow suggests a length of at least 270 m for the completed hull.

Given the incomplete nature of the upper decks, definitive identification of the Dalian hull as the first so-called '001A' aircraft carrier is not possible.

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China may be building first indigenous carrier - IHS Jane's 360

Aircraft carrier (001A) under construction.
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